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How can I be a positive Receiver?

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Blog written by Melanie Barlow, Head of Research, Evaluation and Communications

Last entry we discussed micro-leadership moments; if you missed it, it’s available to read here.

Micro-leadership moments are those moments in our daily practice where we are faced with the decision to speak up or not. We left each other last time with the idea that a significant way to demonstrate leadership, is not only speaking up, but being a positive Receiver of the speaking up message.

Being a positive Receiver requires us in the moment to make decisions that can lead to a change of direction in care or approach, and awareness that how we respond can greatly influence and impact those around us. 

In healthcare, we spend so much time, money and resources teaching people to speak up. Don’t get me wrong, this is very important, but why don’t we spend just as much energy and resource teaching people to receive the speaking up message? Maybe this is why speaking up continues to be so hard. 

So how do we step up and be a leader when someone speaks up to us?

RESET our emotions(1)—manage our defensiveness, give the other person the benefit of the doubt, or as described by the Center for Medical Simulation, the Basic Assumption and acknowledge that speaking up, or giving feedback takes courage.

REFRAME—the in the moment decision to either stick to my direction, or change direction based on the new information. We all have biases and filters which influence our decisions(2) and having an awareness of and acknowledging them is difficult and requires a degree of vulnerability. Reframing our thinking takes effort and courage; a definite lion moment! 

ENGAGE: Get curious—what is it they are seeing that I’m not? We all have blind spots and they will always be blind spot if we don’t listen to feedback(3).

Want to learn more about how to receive speaking up messages and have a shared language in these difficult conversations? Contact Mater Education's Speaking With Good Judgement© team SWGJ@mater.org.au, and listen to the Center for Medical Simulation’s Podcast on the Science of Speaking Up. (Mater Education is an affiliate of the Center for Medical Simulation, Boston).

About the Author
Melanie is currently undertaking her PhD in healthcare communication, specifically the role the Receiver plays in speaking up conversations. She is the the Head of Research, Evaluation and Communications at Mater Education.

1. Smith, D.M., Elephant in the room: How relationships make or break the success of leaders and organizations. Vol. 7. 2011: John Wiley & Sons.
2. Watson, B., L. Jones, and D. Hewett, Accommodating health, in Communication accommodation theory: Negotiating personal relationships and social identities across contexts. 2016, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge United Kingdom. p. 152-168.
3. Stone, D. and S. Heen, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. 2015, New York: Penguin Books.