Meet the Trainer – Martin Smith
Having difficult conversations will always be part of the healthcare environment. But the pandemic has meant that these conversations have become more and more frequent and necessary under extremely pressing conditions. From breaking bad news over the phone to interpreting a lack of body language online, these unique challenges have affected practitioners across the world. We spoke to Martin Smith, one of Miads network of trainers, about his webinar series on providing the necessary tools to navigate and open tough dialogues with others.
(You can watch a short clip below from our interview)
Which sessions do you run at Miad?
I get involved with communication skills training for all levels of clinician. This includes having difficult conversations and others such as how to be more assertive. I also run coaching and mentoring sessions on management and leadership development.
What are some of the points that you think people take away from the difficult conversations course?
The key thing that I really want people to take away is: do as much preparation as you can. Think about the key message you want to say – that means preparation and practice. Try it either with a confidant, a friend, or if nothing else literally say it out loud to yourself.
The other thing that I’d say is remember that everybody’s different. We can never truly say how a conversations going to go so you need to be watching and paying attention to how a person is responding and reacting.
For the difficult conversations webinar, who are you targeting?
It’s aimed at anybody in the medical context. From nursing staff to doctors and consultants. Sometimes they’ve been asked to attend training or other times it’s personal development.
Some of the common difficulties that people come along with include how do I have a conversation with my boss about the way I’m being managed? The way that the department’s being run? Or how do I give performance feedback to a member of my team? How can I tell someone that they’re not meeting my expectations?
What is the main difference between the type of difficult conversation you might need to have in person versus online?
In person, you can react to body language. It’s important to see the person that you’re talking to because we get an awful lot of our communication through visual cues. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to break bad news to someone over the phone. You are missing at least half the reaction down a phone line. We can replicate the visual when we’re on a webinar but when training in a room, the best way to try and do that would be turn people’s backs to each other, to take that visual away.
Do you have any advice for people who are introverted or socially anxious?
It comes from a position of assertion, finding that voice and finding that strength, which takes me back to preparation and practice, so that you’ve at least heard yourself start this conversation. Then to say ‘I know where I’m going, now I’ve got to pay attention to the other person and what’s going to happen’.
We worry that it’s going to be frightening and actually, it’s just a conversation. Nine times out of ten, it never is what you imagine it to be. It’s much smoother and much easier.
Martin is a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and executive coach who works with senior teams around the world providing training in leadership, communication and change management.
If you would like to check out Martin’s courses and the others offered by Miad’s extensive network, find more information here.