Surgeons Be Brave: Say What You Want to Say

As a surgeon, your training probably didn’t prioritize “communication”—you learned how to save lives and heal bodies, not how to verbalize thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Unfortunately, an inability to communicate effectively can have a profoundly negative impact on all aspects of your life, from the operating table to the kitchen table.

The good news is, improving those communication skills is well-within your ability, even if you’re well into your surgical career.

Here’s how to get started…

1.    Practice and Summon your Courage

It’s one thing to be fearless in the operating room—you were trained for that—but speaking your mind is different, whether you’re a naturally shy person or whether you have been burned by speaking up before. Start by acknowledging internally that it’s important for you to speak up. Then, seek out opportunities for challenging conversations with a peer, spouse, friend, or superior. Get mentally prepared by thinking about what you want to say, and why. After you’ve practiced a few times in your head, summon some courage and go say what you want to say!

2.    Adopt a Positive Attitude

If you want your words to stick, bring the right attitude to the conversation. Getting the listener to see things your way means abandoning frustration, anger, and annoyance—you need to let positivity lead the way. Adopt a positive mindset, and you’ll be far more likely of influencing the other party.

3.    Encourage a “Give and Take”

Conversation is conversation—it isn’t a monologue. It’s a give and take between two people. Ask the other person about their thoughts on the topic at hand. Draw them in. Invite them to be part of the solution. Don’t talk at them, engage them. You’ll have a better experience and a more effective outcome.

4.    Try to be Less Threatening

Surgeons have a nasty habit of inadvertently coming across as menacing and stubborn. When communicating with others, be aware of your presence and try to adopt a less-threatening approach. Lower your voice, smile when appropriate, and sit down so you’re eye-to-eye with the other person.

5.    Make Mutual Understanding the Goal

The goal of any conversation should be mutual understanding. To that end, summarize the other person’s point of view and the proposed solution. Then, ask if they have any questions about your point of view, and offer to clarify anything they don’t understand. There is no better place to leave a conversation than in a place of mutual understanding.