talk today about something that, until about a year and a half ago, I had
little experience with:
Playing WELL in the Sandbox.
(an example of what NOT to do)
and don’t get me wrong here. I’m still learning and still struggle with this
"concept” from time to time.
So lets start from the middle: post-high school, pre-career, in that
wonderful place called college. Some of us started college, or completed it,
without going through the entire course of the Biomedical Photography program
at RIT. What I’m not so subtly getting at here is some of us have gone through
the pleasure of sitting through a critique where there was a more brutal back
and forth between you, your teachers, and your peers. Sitting there trying to
defend your art against a brutal onslaught of critics whom are either
responsible for your grade or competing against you sometimes can be a bit
(mad max thunderdome.jpg - http://www.makesmesmile.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/mad-max-thunderdome.jpg )
breeds a competitive nature which I believe to be exactly the OPPOSITE mentality
of what it takes to "play well in the sandbox”. I say this because I may be slightly
competitive [understatement of the day] and I have struggled to put my
compulsion for personal conquest on the wayside in order to work well to enrich
both my and others’ lives.
That struggle did not begin until I "finished” college and began my
first job. Until then I was happy to add more proverbial achievement notches to
my belt and watch the others flounder around me. I took part in two co-ops and
had three amazing teachers who helped mold me and teach me the way around a
fundus camera [A special thanks to: Christye Sisson, Leslie Barressi, and
Jaclyn Pisano]. When I started my career I was delusionally
convinced I knew it all; how wrong I was.
not so funny thing was that I was about to be given the opportunity for
an attitude adjustment of a lifetime; and thank goodness for that. I needed to
reign in my mercurial personality and adapt to life as an adult, with a career.
The first thing I learned was that this is a team effort so I needed to stow my
ego and assimilate to being part of the team.
first thing I had to work on was communication. It was not often what I
said but how I said it that needed a little buffing. Learning to
communicate with coworkers, patients and physicians can be tricky at times.
Masking any sort of frustration, stress, impatience, irritation etc, although
difficult, is extremely important. There is a law of diminishing returns when
it comes to imaging patients and the happier the patient the more fluidly
administering the test will go. It’s especially important to be cognisant of
your tone when working with patients. Usually when I’m with them I’m in a dark
room so it’s mostly a verbal interaction. As for co-workers and physicians, this
is where you need to really pay attention to the non-verbal stuff. Not only do
you have to watch your tone, you need to be aware of any facial expressions,
gestures, body language, eye contact, and even posture. It’s enough to make
your head spin!
let’s talk for a moment about what you should [and perhaps should not] be doing
while attempting to communicate with another human being.
1. Maintain eye contact. Nothing is more annoying than talking to someone
while they are looking all around instead of at you. By maintaining eye contact
you not only let people know you are focused on listening to what they have to
say, you also seem more sincere in what you say when speaking to them.
2. Facial expressions: they happen whether you’d like
them to or not. This is the
nonverbal part of communication I struggle with the most. My face seems to have
a direct connection to my thoughts and feelings and has no filter what-so-ever
between the two. Makes it a bit hard to effectively communicate when sometimes
what you say and how you feel are different. Also it’s important to be able to
pick up on others’ expressions. When someone is looking at you like they’re burning
a hole in your forehead it’s time to evaluate what you’re saying and if you’re
digging a hole, stop.
3. Watch your body language. Consider how you perceive people when they’re
slouching, constantly checking the time, picking at their nails, stoking their
chin, not facing you while they’re talking to you, hands on their hips, behind
their head, standing too close to you, etc. The way you carry yourself
communicates a wealth of information to those around you. Be aware of how
you’re presenting yourself.
4. Voice: how you use it is important. Changing your tone, timing or inflection can be
the difference between a pleasant conversation and one that will go downhill
quickly. Be aware that it’s not always what you say but how you say it
that people will remember. Frankly, people are much more apt to listen to you
when you’re not being a condescending jerk towards them.
Listening to others is essential for communication to be effective. You need to
be able to absorb, understand, and consider what is being said to you. Take
criticism without being defensive about it. You don’t have to debate every
point. Like my boss has reminded me, you have two ears and one mouth, listen
twice as much as you speak.
has to learn to communicate. Where I work it’s especially important to learn
how to do that within our group. We have a small group of people who do
diagnostic testing and for the most part we run as a pretty well oiled machine.
The only way this continues to work is truly if everyone is willing to be, for
the lack of a better term: a team player.
growth or expansion or frankly just life that group dynamic can change. It’s
important to remind everyone of what it takes to work as a team. I’ve covered
communication, that’s the hard one. Other ones are pretty simple.
consistent, reliable and respectful. Don’t sit passively on the sidelines as
your coworkers do the lion's share of the work. Even if you have a different
way of going about things, put that aside and help things get done. Be an
active participant in what’s going on around you, and if you don’t have
anything to do-ask. Take the initiative and start a dialogue. You can learn
something new and make yourself more marketable in the future. Every single
person you meet, including your coworkers, can teach you something new. Learn!
I started working I would aggressively attack my workload. I would get study
protocols and make write ups for what was needed in order to get certified. I
put a lot of work into them and I didn’t want to share with others, because
they were mine ALL MINE!!! I figured if I could do it, they should be doing it
too. This brings me to my next point, something we all were supposed to learn
when we were children: share.
Sharing information with the team keeps everyone in the loop, and helps
the well-oiled machine move forward.
people, things change. People move, life happens, new policies are enacted. You
gotta roll with the punches, and adapt. Compromise. Remember you still
have a lot to offer, try to figure out how to do it. It might be hard, it might
be stressful, problems may arise. Try to solve those problems, don’t dwell on
it, avoid it, or blame it on others. If you do, guess what? The problem is
still there. As problems pile up, things get stressful.
of the things that can really negatively affect communication and small
group skills is stress. I haven’t learned how to completely control it, or deal
with it. I’m working on it because that one little tooth that is off-kilter due
to stress can make the whole thing fall apart. That’s pretty much the last
thing that you want, cause guess what it will cause: more STRESS. If you have
any suggestions on how to effectively deal with stress, please feel free to
with a group can be pleasant and advantageous, or ineffective and wretched. We
have all experienced this in either our schooling or careers. The fact that I
have to constantly remind myself of while working with others is that, while I
only have control over my own thoughts and actions, I have to find ways to make
my personal opinions work for the group and scrap the ones that are
self-serving. Knowing and doing your part coupled with effective communication
is the only way to get things done.
Deats, B.S., CRA, OCT-C, has been
working for the University of Rochester, Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester, New
York for just over 2 years. A fledgeling adult and relatively newly married she
enjoys cooking, eating, traveling, and the endless struggle of trying to get
her husband to try something other than Labatt Blue.