Face to face, ear to ear or screen to screen
I use a number of communication methods every day as we all do.
Unfortunately I think the pace of life and demand for rapid communication often pushes us in the direction of SMS or email as well as associated social media interfaces.
There are obviously many benefits to using these communication methods. I’ve often thought how did I actually go through most of uni without internet and a mobile phone?
We need to be aware however of the limitations of email and SMS, especially in a workplace and professional setting.
As a doctor, I have always tried to limit any communication that is not face to face with a patient. Email I think is the worst to get bogged down in, as it is time consuming to write more than one sentence and difficult to correspond anything except simple plain information. It also lacks the barrier established in a professional context of a patient needing to make an appointment or making a telephone call. It is easy for us all to simply shoot off an email, and I think if I had to respond to 10 emails a day onto of 10 phone calls it would be doubly awful. Especially in medicine where we are not set up to charge for phone or email time, unlike lawyers and accountants.
I think it is my style, but I also find it quite difficult and dangerous to attempt a telephone consultation. Apart from the obvious lack of examining the patient, I have learned to read a person and their body language and connect to them in a way that helps me decide what’s wrong. I find the absence of this quite hard to overcome.
In a workplace, I also think email should only have it’s place in information dissemination. Any topic that would, under normal circumstance, require a degree of interaction and discussion should not generally be done through email.
The worst offending emails are those that attempt to sort out an issue, ending in an endless stream of paragraphs of text without making ground as a face to face discussion would do.
As with face to face communication, I believe skills need to be developed to functionally, appropriately and insightfully use modern methods, which includes social media and websites.
My next skill set to develop probably needs to be in the field of social media. I’ve never had an interest in Facebook, but see that many professional people and businesses effectively use an integrated website, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram etc. Failure to keep up with all of this might see me labelled as a geriatric before my time.