AORN Blog - The Periop Life

How to Increase Meaningful Conversations During a Pandemic

A Guest Blog Post by Julie Cahn, DNP, RN, CNOR, RN-BC, ACNS-BC, CNS-CP

AORN Perioperative Practice Specialist

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July 22, 2020

It’s more challenging to have meaningful conversations during these days of social distancing due to COVID-19. With fewer face-to-face conversations now–not only due to the pandemic restrictions, but also because of technology–people are also less likely to listen to each other and the content of conversations is often divisive.  

There is a lot of information about communication, which is ironic since we often do it poorly.  

Having great conversations may boil down to intent: you must be interested and value what others have to say. Without interest in others, it’s easy to find yourself listening with an intent to respond instead of listening with an intent to understand.

No matter how much you think you know, remember other people can bring additional knowledge and perspective to a conversation. When you actively listen, you may be surprised to find how others view a topic and the enlightenment you receive may deepen your own understanding in new ways. 

During this pandemic, meaningful conversations are more important than ever. Don’t assume you know how others are feeling or that you know what they need.  Start by asking and aim for an enriching conversation.

Here are a few tips to keep your conversations meaningful during this challenging time:

  1. Be present.
    When you multitask, you are dividing your attention and you will not be able to effectively listen. Distractions can be mental or physical. Think about the devices you are using or thoughts you are having. It may be better to politely leave a conversation if you can’t be present. If so, let the individual know that you can’t give the conversation the attention it deserves right now.
  1. Listen twice as much as you talk.
    You have two ears but only one mouth and there may be a reason for that. Active listening is hard, it takes concentration and practice. Conversations need a balance between talking and listening from all participants. Don’t store your thoughts about what the speaker is saying for future responses in the conversation. This prevents you from really listening to what the person is saying.
  1. Enter conversations with an intent to learn.
    Conversations are not for pontification or self-promotion. When this occurs, the conversation can be one-sided and tedious. Assume there is something valuable to be understood. People can sense when conversations are open, honest, and from the heart and they are more likely to respond in kind.
  1. Ask open-ended questions.
    Using these types of questions allows people to describe their experiences with minimal outside influence. These include questions that start with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Such as, what was that like? How did that feel? Ask clarifying questions when needed to be sure you understand the individual’s meaning.

Although it may be more challenging, the pandemic also provides the perfect opportunity to hone your communication skills and become more connected. Be honest and remember that everyone’s experience is different–that’s when the most meaningful conversations can start.

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