The article “How to Recover after a Communication Breakdown,” by Charlie Powell talks about how the importance the anatomy of communication is not only in determining what went wrong but in looking for a solution to make things right or to prevent such a breakdown in the future. He discussed 5 major aspects of communication as well as the questions to ask when something goes wrong.

  1. Sender – this is the person trying to deliver the message. When something goes wrong some questions to ask about the sender are: Did they deliver the message to everyone? Did they rely on a note to convey the information? Did employees that saw the note tell others?
  2. Coding – this is the language of the communication. Questions to ask when there is a communication breakdown include: Was the message clear? Were the details of the message correct?
  3. Channel – the medium by which the message was sent. When there is a problem, one should ask the following questions about the channel: How many mediums were used? Were there reminders? Or were there too many reminders?
  4. Decoding – the translation of the message. When determining if the decoding is the problem in a communication breakdown, ask the following questions: Did the employees understand what I was trying to convey? If not, why not? How could they decode it to mean something different?
  5. Feedback – this is how the receiver responds. If there is no response, then you know there was a breakdown at some point and this is where you ask each person who was intended to get the message what you could have done differently.

Powell made clear that sometimes outside forces such as distractions and emotions can be a major hindrance to making sure the communication hits its mark. It is important to mitigate those outside factors as much as possible and have important communications done in a quiet office. Powell remarked that in high risk environments, such as a veterinary clinic where there are always many things happening, communication is most essential and breakdowns are common. By really understanding 5 core aspects of a message and the distractions that happen in your environment, you can learn how to be a better communicator and not only fix the problem when a breakdown happens but also prevent a future breakdown.

When distractions run rampant in your practice, take the time to evaluate ways to communicate better with your employees and decrease those distractions. It can be as simple as asking your employees to arrive 5-10 minutes earlier than their shift so that you can convey important messages before they get distracted with their tasks and the patients coming in.

When someone is upset and comes to you, find a quiet, secluded area where they can compose themselves and then listen to what they have to say before offering suggestions. Sometimes people just need to talk about what is bothering them. This has benefits that are 2-fold: 1. The employee will feel like they can come to you with any problem if you are willing to listen to their problem and 2. You can learn about what the employees are having problems with and can cater your communication with them to focus on those points. By knowing the anatomy of communication and the things that bother or drive your employees can serve you well to being a better communicator as you move forward.