Medicine has a language all of its own – a combination of Ancient Greek, Latin, people’s names, made-up words and acronyms – but what is the purpose of that language? It has been developed for us to communicate with each other – with other doctors, but also with our colleagues, staff and patients – and there is a real power in that communication.
Relationships are all about communication and most complaints (which are relationship breakdowns) are due to a breakdown in communication.
To truly communicate, we need to connect with people first, to feel where they are at and speak to them in a language they understand.
The word communication comes from the Latin communicatio(n- ), from the verb communicare ‘to share’. So communication is not a telling, but a sharing, of information, of ideas, of feelings.
There is no one-size-fits-all algorithm when it comes to communication, for everyone is different. The way we transmit information will depend on the level of information the other person has access to, for example the way we talk with another specialist in our same area will be different from the way we talk with a doctor who works in another field, or the way we discuss their health condition with a patient.
But the essence of clear communication is that we resonate with one another, for communication is in fact a vibration – not just of the spoken word, but of the way we feel about each other.
We all feel everything, all of the time. We can feel where someone is at, what emotional state they are in, whether they like us or not, whether they are afraid of us or don’t trust us… and the more we allow ourselves to feel all of this, the more we can communicate with people in a way they can understand and relate to. But to do this, we have to look into people’s eyes and let them into our hearts.
Looking into people’s eyes
I love to look in people’s eyes, including when I am talking to them. I can tell if the lights are on and they are hearing and understanding what I am saying, or if they are glazed over and just nodding, worried that I will think they are stupid if they ask me to repeat something or ask a question. I can tell if a man is just waiting for me to finish talking so he can ask me if I can bring his wife into the consultation to listen too… I am learning to read these signs earlier and earlier and now I usually suggest it would be a good idea for them to come in together to begin with! I can tell if someone is worried, and ask if there is a particular reason they are afraid of this diagnosis or of having this procedure… perhaps their neighbour had similar symptoms and ended up with cancer, or a family member had this operation and had surgical complications.
When people say or do things that may not make sense to us, it is important to remember that it makes sense to them, and to dig a little deeper to find out why… to ask why they would rather give up driving than have cataract surgery, to ask why they won’t put drops in their eyes to control their glaucoma and prevent them from going blind… rather than just labelling them as uncooperative or non-compliant. We do everything for a reason, it is just a matter of finding out what that reason is, so we can understand people more deeply.
And to deeply understand people we have to let them into our hearts.
Letting people into our hearts
The more I surrender any protection I may be holding on to, and open my heart and let people in, the more I can feel all that they are and all that they bring. This cuts through any pictures I may have of them, and any thoughts about what they may or may not know or understand. I have learnt from experience to never judge people by the way they look, for looks can be deceiving. The more I resonate with people, and just feel who they are and where they are at, the more I feel what is needed for me to bring to them. Then, the words that are needed to be said are just there, as is the way they need to be said, the energy they need to be said in.
This is a process that we develop over time and with experience. There is an art and a science to it, but mainly it is about surrendering to the flow of life, to the ocean of vibration we live in, which is communicating with us all the time. That vibration flows through us, the love that we live in and are held by and the more we surrender to it, the more we can feel it, and the more we are able to communicate in a clear and loving way with others.
Dear Dr. Malatt
This is an easy reading article and thank you for raising this topic. Yes the medicine speech is quite complicated for non doctors, for people not from this field. And mostly we as patients switch off when it comes to a true explanation of the medical diagnosis. I wonder how so many people even don’t know what’s truly going on with them. And especially why they don’t ask the doctor for a simple explanation. I know this because I have accompanied a lot of my relatives and friends (especially those of a foreign country) to doctor’s appointments. And doctors are human too and should understand a patient, their worries and their helplessness in some situations.
The topic your raise is not taught in universities to such a deep level if at all I guess. To communicate and receive all signs and understand your patients is something you become aware of and learn through practising – if you are open to it.
But on the other hand we as patients also have to learn to be more alert with what our body says, why we may get certain illnesses and how we contributed, because this will help to cure or heal. And also ask the doctor what we do not understand as that is our responsibility too. The body is fascinating and having a good doctor explaining what we can already feel in us – is so amazing.
So all in all Communication in its true meaning from both sides would be the goal.
Thank you Sonja,
I appreciate your understandings and agree that communication is a two-way process – we all have our part to play in it.
Many thanks for yet another great post!
I have written to you before but couldn’t help sharing my enthusiasm for the ideas sparked as a result of reading your latest. (I work in Spiritual Care at a large-ish regional health service)
Just sent an email to my line manager describing how I’d love to conduct sessions for intern medical staff that incorporate use of some of the bits I find on this blog (and elsewhere). I think it could also really help for them to know these postings come from experienced medicos who have ‘been there’ themselves.
An example of my thoughts: session beginning with some meditation, followed by a short reading such as the section Letting people into our hearts, and concluding with an opportunity to reflect and share re themes emerging from such a reading and how it relates in their day to day practice (and also self-care).
We are already finding some increasing interest from clinical leaders wishing for their interns to access the meditation sessions we currently run for the hospital in general.
Anyhow, just thought Id keep you posted on my aspirations re possibilities for future
Hi Rohan, thanks so much for your comment and it is great to hear from you.
Your aspirations sound wonderful and we can only encourage you in your endeavours…anything we can do to support our young doctors to care for and appreciate themselves has our full support, with love, Anne
Hi again Anne
I appreciate the prompt response
My line manager is on side with the general idea – juts got to chip away at the bean counters now! 🙂
thanks for what you are doing