If you deal with daily staff meetings and interactions with doctors and patients, you know just how important it is to speak assertively and get heard! But what exactly does “assertively” mean and how do you speak your mind without coming across as rude?
These are important questions, as communicating effectively — not to mention politely — is pivotal to your professional success as a nurse. The last thing you want to do is alienate other nurses (or patients!) with in-your-face boldness. And you definitely shouldn’t let doctors and other health care professionals walk all over you. As Mad Men’s Don Draper once said,
“…Keep it up, and even if you do get my job, you’ll never run this place. You’ll die in that corner office, a mid-level executive with a little bit of hair who women go home with out of pity. Want to know why? Cause no one will like you.”
And Draper’s advice is spot on; no one responds well to a bossy nurse and being rude is definitely not the way to win a promotion or respect. Remember, when asserting yourself or your ideas, your main goal should be to gain and give respect. How? We suggest focusing on confidence instead of assertiveness. You’ll find that a confidently presented idea or viewpoint will get you far and will garner you more respect in the long run.
The best solutions come out of problems. Say you’re dealing with a particularly problematic patient who disagrees with his treatment plan. Instead of backing down and calling for the doctor, or losing your cool and yelling at the patient, take a step back. In order to communicate effectively, you must show confidence in yourself and what your saying – especially in front of a patient who’s obviously concerned about their health. Look your patient in the eye and make eye contact – both when you are speaking and (even more importantly) while you’re listening to the patient.
Exhibit Leadership Qualities
Part of speaking in an assertive manner is demonstrating leadership skills. When you are assertive in a conversation, you are leading that conversation. But don’t use this as a time to be condescending. Steer clear of using big words (especially when you’re dealing with patients whose native language isn’t English) in an effort to deliberately impress people and try to avoid making others feel defensive. Think about your approach, delivery, and what you want as a result of your conversation.
For more Career Advice for Nurses pick up the latest issue of Scrubs magazine, available at a retail store near you!