Seven seconds, 11 impressions

Optometrist Ian Davies spoke to practitioners about the importance of good communication skills at 100% Optical

Ian Davis
“It is what you say and the way you say it that gets results,” optometrist Ian Davies told practitioners when opening his talk on communication at 100% Optical last month.

Providing a whistle stop tour of communication techniques and offering pointers on ways to improve communication skills and styles, Mr Davies explained to practitioners “communication is really, really important.”

“It is so important that it is a competency defined by the General Optical Council,” he explained.

Mr Davies highlighted the importance of communicating effectively and efficiently with patients by sharing insight into research that reports a link between communication and patient outcomes.

Citing a meta-analysis that analysed 100 peer review studies in medicine, he explained that when a practitioner did not communicate well with the patient, the patient was one and a half times less likely to comply with advice. But when the practitioner communicated well, patients were two times more likely to comply.

“The better you communicate with your patients, the more likely they are to do what you ask them to,” Mr Davies summarised.

Ways of communicating

Communication can happen in a number of ways, with non-verbal communication being particularly important, Mr Davies. He shared a seven second video clip of the beginning of a consultation.

Mr Davies highlighted that in seven seconds a person can make multiple decisions and opinions about somebody. “In seven seconds you can make 11 opinions about the person you are interacting with,” he explained.

The optometrist informed practitioners that of these 11 impressions, just one will be based on what is being said, while four will be on how you say it and the remainder on body language.

“You have a seven second opportunity to make that first impression count with your patient,” Mr Davies stressed.

These first seven seconds are important for all employees, including optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical assistants and support staff he said, encouraging all staff to have a seven-second plan.

Discussing how hand and arm gestures can impact the way in which information is passed on to the patient, Mr Davies identified posture as pivotal, especially when dealing with younger patients.

Asking the audience if they have ever considered what the practice, testing room and indeed themselves look like through the eyes of a two-year-old, he encouraged them to walk around the practice at their level.

“The exam room can be a scary place when everything is tall. You may smile but from their perspective it may not appear as a smile,” he said.

The words

On language, Mr Davies explained that it is important for practitioners to ensure that they are using appropriate words, but also words that their patients understand.

“The language that we use may seem specific and obvious to us, but it may not be for our patients,” he said, adding: “You must consider the context of the words that you are using and make sure that patients have a good understanding.”

He concluded: “Using long words doesn’t make you smart. Using the right words for the right patient at the right time is what makes you smart.”