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June 17, 2014

Take A Seat For Better Communication

I recently had my annual physical with a fantastic doctor who sits down with me and asks thorough questions. I always leave feeling confident that he not only does his job well, but cares about me personally.

That experience got me thinking about lessons learned from doctors who communicate so effectively. A study by the University of Kansas Hospital found that patients were more satisfied with their doctor when the doctor did one simple thing: sat down with them during a visit.

When the physician was seated, 95 percent of patient comments following the appointment were positive, according to the study. Patients also reported a better understanding of their condition. By contrast, only 61 percent of patient comments were positive when the physician was standing.

One other very interesting point from this study was that patients perceived that the doctor stayed longer to talk to them when he sat down. In reality, the sitting doctor spent less time than the standing doctor.

Specifically, patients reported that doctors who sat down during the visit spent an average of five minutes in the room, even though the average sit-down time was little more than a minute. Researchers heard comments from patients like this: “The doctor took the time to sit and listen.” Or this: “He sat down long enough to get all my questions answered.”

There’s an interesting lesson here for leaders from this randomized, controlled study at the Kansas hospital: simple acts matter. Taking the time to sit down and look someone in the eye makes a truly favorable, lasting impression on an employee, a co-worker or a client. How we speak to people – not necessarily the length of time we spend – is a vital aspect of effective communication.

If we can push through the day’s chaos, put our phones and email away, and take a moment to sit down for a simple chat, we will be perceived as more approachable and attentive. Most importantly, these talks don’t have to be very long to do the trick.

When might taking a seat help you be a more effective leader?  

-          David Grossman

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