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July 10, 2024

Restoring and promoting trust and healthy communication is so important in a world where people are often stressed, overwhelmed, and have different beliefs and opinions. In a recent episode of the AMDA On-The-Go podcast, host Diane Sanders-Cepeda, DO, CMD, and guest Aya Caspi tackled this delicate topic with compassion, honesty, and key insights.

Among the highlights of the conversation:

  • Nonviolent communication can be used to restore trust, especially in our patient relationships and in thinking about all the stakeholders practitioners interact with across the post-acute and long-term care continuum. Based on a body of literature by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, nonviolent communication means interactions with no trace of intention to harm, even those who may want to harm us. Ms. Caspi said, “I think that's very aligned with the doctor's oath for non-harm. Many times, I believe we have the intention to care, but there is that gap between this intention and the impact somehow and the way we communicate.”
  • Sometimes people express their needs through moralistic judgments, for example, sharing what's wrong with people and name calling when their needs are not met versus sharing needs directly. This enables people to deny responsibility by implying that others are causing their negative experiences. This takes conversations and relationships into the “conflict zone.” 
  • When we impose our perceptions on others who don’t share them, it contributes to distrust, and people get defensive. 
  • Instead of moralistic judgments, we can use observations, for example, to tell people about the impact of a concept such as the importance of vaccinations on you. This presents an exit from talking about right and wrong and assumes that everything we say is an attempt to meet one or more “universal needs.” This is a different way of looking at human behavior and action, enabling/encouraging people to take responsibility for their feelings and needs. Ms. Caspi said, “The more responsibility I take from my experience, the more power I have over my experience. This is very transformative.” She added, “When we think of nonviolent communication and restoration of trust, to me, it feels like we are using skills that develop emotional intelligence, which is critical to making decisions that are effective.”
  • It is important to develop self-empathy and the ability to empathize with others to shift from issuing demands to making requests. 
  • We are all human, and sometimes contribute to our words and/or actions having a negative impact. When that happens, it is important to focus on that impact and take a share of responsibility without shame or blame. “We need to take responsibility for how we contributed to the impact and do what we can to care for that impact,” said Ms. Caspi.
  • When you realize that every judgment expresses an unmet need, you can start shifting to connecting with the needs behind the judgment. In this way, when a family member approaches us with a complaint (e.g., “You didn’t do this for my mother. Why not?”), we can empathize instead of judging them or ourselves. 
  • When you say or do something that contributes to a loss of trust, it is important to focus on de-escalating the situation by understanding the impact on the other person instead of becoming defensive. Inviting the other person to collaborate is helpful in finding a path forward that works for both of you.

Click here for much more of this insightful discussion