PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!
Being skilled in communication is about understanding the range of methods, approaches and tools that are available and selecting the best to take depending on the circumstance. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate, the true skill comes in drawing on your experience and knowledge to determine the best way to work with the person you are treating to achieve the desired outcome of the person you are working with.
Of course, the most beneficial thing that we can do to develop our communication skills is to practise, practise, practise! Once we have understood the theory, the next steps are always to apply what we have learnt. One of the best ways to do this is through role-playing scenarios with colleagues and fellow students. Simulating a consultation can allow you to develop your skills in a safe and supportive environment - with no patients being harmed in the making of your communication skills!
Role-playing or practising communication skills is always something that has the potential to make people feel (very) nervous. some people struggle with the inauthentic nature of the environment, some with the feeling of being exposed and having peers observing them, whilst others dislike the feeling of 'acting'. The more you do it, the easier it gets, so embrace the opportunity to practise and grow.
Being prepared for practice sessions always helps and there is a lot to be said for having a run-through on your own before working with others. Observing other people undertaking consultations, however they do it, can give you ideas for things to incorporate, or not, into your own practice. Being able to observe gives you the chance to identify the communication skills being used and notice the patient’s reaction to them. It also helps you notice where things might be going wrong and allows you to support your colleague with some constructive feedback. So don’t switch off when it’s your turn to watch others, this is another great opportunity to learn and upskill!