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Positive Communication in Negative Situations

It was about 6.30pm on a Thursday and I was leaving work, walking to my car to drive back to London.

Now, anyone who works or has worked in a hospital will know that the on-site car parking charges are ridiculous to the point of insanity mixed in with a little daylight banditry!

iStock_000005337281XSmallHence, what most employees do is find a car parking spot on a residential street nearby – preferably one that doesn’t have any parking restrictions.

I don’t mind parking a 10 minute walk away from work – I don’t HAVE to be on the door-step and sometimes, that short walk in the morning is just what’s needed to get your thoughts in order pre- and post work.

However, there is a limit.  Any more than a 10 minute walk and I start thinking about whether I’m better off parking in London (when working in Basingstoke)!

Just to note that, in order to find a parking spot close to the hospital, I start out on the street closest before slowly and strategically moving further away.  There are a couple of roads about a 5 minute walk away that are guaranteed to have parking spaces available.

On this particular occasion though, I was fortunate enough to find a spot virtually on the door step of the hospital.  Even better, on the door step of the short-cut to the entrance of the hospital!

GET IN THERE!

So I parked – feeling rather chuffed – and went in to work.

On returning, at the end of the day, I noticed a lady about my mom’s age, carrying a serious number of shopping bags, walking up towards me.  She managed, but you could see that the load was cumbersome and I had a ‘half-thought’ to run down and help her carry the bags.

I opened the car and proceeded to load my bags in to it and when I had finished, the lady (and the shopping) was only a few paces away…

“You know I’ve had to carry all this shopping from practically the end of the street,” said the lady

iStock_000010609105XSmall“Because you’ve taken up 2 spaces…”

I paused…

Looked at her…

Went to the front of the car…

Then around to the back…

She was right…

I stood and looked at her…

Embarrassed…

“I’m terribly sorry” I said

“You know you’re not paying for parking – the least you can do is be considerate to others”

She was curt without being rude, obviously frustrated but controlled.  You could even say she was politely airing her disapproval for the inconvenience it had caused her

I had parked right outside her house.  She walked in to her front garden and placed her shopping down in her porch – heaving a sigh of relief as she did so – and proceeded to find the keys to open her door…

“Mam, you’re absolutely right…” I started

“…and I am sorry, I didn’t do it maliciously and I’ll be more careful next time”

She looked at me and her voice softened a little.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything” she said

“I would have done exactly the same thing – besides, I don’t want you to have to heave your shopping from the end of the street”

“I’m sorry I was so short with you”

“That’s ok Mam, I bet you feel better now though?”

“Oh… think I need a cuppa” she said, half smiling, carried her shopping in to the house and closed the door.

Could I have argued the point?

Yes…

There could have been another car parked there so she wouldn’t have the space…iStock_000010681202XSmall

I had parked as best I could – in light of the cars that had already parked on that side…

There may have been spaces closer that she could have used so that she didn’t have to trek up the length of the road with 2 tonnes of shopping…

I could have been a bit more abrupt, sharp, overly assertive…

I’d had a very hard day at work where some of my patients, due to the nature of their conditions, had passed away.  As a therapist, you tend to build social bonds with your patients.  It is my professional opinion that this rapport is important.  If you cannot have a rapport with your patient the likelihood of them taking on board any exercises and strategies given to them for improving their communication and/or swallowing is significantly reduced.

I could have rattled off to her that she didn’t have to take it so personally and who was she to talk to me like that etc etc…

However, there was no need…

She had politely pointed out an error in my judgement and how it had inconvenienced her unnecessarily…

She was calm and collected yet assertive and frustrated…

And she was right…

The communicative exchange was positive on all accounts:

She was able to express to me very clearly, her thoughts and ideas.

I, in turn was able to understand and respond with my thoughts and ideas.

The end result, one of which was to understand the need to be a bit more thoughtful when parking my car, was achieved in a pleasant manner albeit in an unpleasant context – nobody likes to be told they’re wrong.

Interactions and exchanges like these happen all the time socially, domestically or in the work place.

We cannot always be on the very best of terms with everyone we meet and there are occasions when something irks us or there is a need to bring something to the attention of others that could be construed as a complaint or a difference in opinion

However, it doesn’t have to be seen as negative…

It didn’t leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth, in resentment towards the woman.

It didn’t leave me feeling low and embarrassed about my own intelligence or lack of common sense.

I didn’t feel attacked and so, did not require the need to defend myself.

It left me feeling empowered.

Empowered that I had remedied an issue that I had unknowingly caused a member of the public through compromise and civility.

A very positive communication!

The right language.  The right delivery.  The right time

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Mental Health Affects us All - ReCreate Me Speech and Language TherapyI'm Morgan Freeman