7 Communication Sins Every Practice Should Avoid

A lack of communication can lead to inefficiency in medical practice, says one expert. What are a few communications sins to avoid?

Avoiding seven common communication errors can boost the productivity of the average medical group by 80 percent.

So claims Skip Weisman of Weisman Success Resources, a Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based consultancy. Weisman  outlined the "Seven Deadliest Communication Sins" for attendees at this year's Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) annual conference, held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif.

Communication leads to three possible outcomes, he said. It can increase trust and build a relationship, slowly erode trust and the relationship, or instantly destroy trust and the relationship. Favoring the first possibility over the other two takes constant effort from practices, he said.

Weisman cited reports by Towers Watson, ComTIA, Cognisco and Siemans which found that the average employee wastes at a good amount of time per day because of poor communication. To this point, Watson outlined seven communication sins that practices commit, killing productivity and ultimately, income:

1. 1. Lack of Specificity

Weisman recommends avoiding phrases like "anytime," or "when convenient," in favor of precise details. Weisman gave the example of a manager who told him to call "anytime," but when Weisman tried to follow up the manager was never available.

2. Lack of Desirable Behaviors

Similarly, sometimes people give criticism without explaining exactly what behavior they want to see. For example, they might accuse a coworker of not being a “team player” without giving any details.

3. Lack of Immediacy, Urgency and Promptness

Too often, Weisman said, we procrastinate in having difficult conversations. There are legitimate reasons for delaying a conversation, he acknowledged. "Sometimes right in the moment, immediately, is not the right time to communicate.  There are other things going on. There may be other people in the environment."

If you are waiting to gather more information pertinent to the conversation, then you are not really procrastinating, he added. However, if you are avoiding a conversation because you are afraid, busy or just think it will be difficult, you may be causing harm.

For example, Weisman almost failed to mediate a conflict brewing between two people on the staff of a minor league baseball team he managed because he was afraid they would turn their anger on him. "I knew I had to do something yet I was glued to my chair," he said. By the time he spoke up to mediate, the two people had nearly come to blows. This kind of procrastination can be "distracting, debilitating and destructive," he said.

4. Lack of Respectful “ReBUTtals”

Don’t complement someone and take it back at the same time, Weisman advises. For example, don’t say, “You did a great job, BUT…”

5. Lack of Appropriate Tone and Body Language

Negative expressions, tone of voice and gestures, such as eye rolling, often get in the way of helpful communication, Weisman said.

6. Lack of Focused Attention

Communication can’t happen unless you sincerely concentrate on the person with whom you are trying to communicate, Weisman said.

7. Lack of Directness and Candor

Don’t tiptoe around the elephant in the room, Weisman cautioned.

You can avoid these seven deadly sins by instead making sure your communication is prompt, direct and respectful, Weisman advised.