Table 2

Themes and observable behaviours in communication with colleagues

Listening skills
  • Uses both general and active listening skills to facilitate communication

  • Is attentive

  • Stops and takes time to listen respectfully to colleagues

  • Appropriately maintains eye contact while discussing issues with all members of the health care team

  • Allows sufficient time for colleagues to articulate their concerns

  • Does other tasks that interfere with listening

Language skills
  • Can be understood in face-to-face communication, and with all other commonly used methods (eg, telephone, video conference, etc)

  • Can understand complex profession-specific conversation

  • Uses appropriate language for colleagues with different backgrounds, professions, and education

  • Uses an appropriate tone for the situation to ensure good communication and colleague comfort

  • Introduces self when meeting for the first time

  • When asking colleagues to do something, makes sure the request is clear and checks that it is understood

  • Offers rationale for the plan or approach to improve understanding

  • Is able to adjust tone to be appropriate to circumstances

  • Asks rather than demands

  • Uses non-blaming, appropriate, and specific observations when dealing with difficult circumstances

  • Case presentations are poorly organized or incomplete

  • Is not specific with requests

  • Interrupts colleagues

  • Asks multiple questions without awaiting the answers

  • Does not target the language to the individual’s professional background and level of understanding

  • Expresses inappropriate anger

  • Uses inappropriate humour

  • Uses condescending language

  • Shouts or uses excessively loud speech

  • Swears or uses offensive language

Written (eg, hospital and office charts, consultant letters, lawyer letters)
  • Clearly articulates and communicates thoughts in writing

  • Writes legibly and uses spelling, grammar, and punctuation that facilitate understanding

  • Writes legibly

  • Written material is organized

  • When writing to request consultation, is specific about questions and reasons, and provides relevant information

  • Writes patient care plans (eg, test requests, follow-up orders) clearly and ensures they are securely transmitted to the appropriate recipient

  • Uses abbreviations that are not universally known or are prone to misinterpretation

Nonverbal skills
  • Uses appropriate eye contact, is respectful of personal space, uses an appropriate demeanour (eg, pleasant, smiles appropriately, is appropriately serious, attentive, patient, and empathetic), is conscious of the effect of body language on the colleague

  • Is focused on the conversation

  • Ensures eye contact is appropriate for the culture and comfort of the colleague

  • Adjusts demeanour to the colleague’s context

  • Ensures physical contact is appropriate to the colleague’s comfort

  • Is aware of and responsive to body language, especially that expresses dissatisfaction

  • Correctly interprets signs of feelings not expressed, such as anger and frustration

  • When a colleague shows signs of distress, demonstrates awareness by doing things such as modifying demands, exploring concerns, and seeking resolution

Attitudinal skills
  • Able to respectfully hear, understand, and discuss opinions, ideas, or values that might be different from their own; this permeates all levels of communication

  • Seeks to understand rather than to judge

  • Returns the focus to effective patient care when interprofessional conflicts occur

  • Attempts to resolve difficulties before ending the discussion or walking away

  • Apologizes when appropriate

  • Is rude

  • Is impatient

  • Belittles colleagues or their field of work

  • Trivializes or dismisses ideas or concerns of colleagues

  • Is arrogant

  • Displays anger or irritation

  • Uses derogatory language when describing a patient’s circumstances or case

  • Is threatening

  • * Assessment of cultural and age appropriateness is best dealt with in the assessment of other communication skills with the patient and of professionalism.