The National Association of Neonatal Therapists (NANT) is an organization created specifically for neonatal occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists. NANT provides multiple ways for neonatal therapists to connect, learn, mentor and inspire while advancing this focused field of therapy on a national level.
By Sue Ludwig December 16, 2014
“That’s just too many words.”
Jake Ludwig at age 9
Several years ago when my son was just 9 years old, he came home from a day in the 4th grade with another yellow slip. The dreaded yellow slip meant he’d forgotten to do a portion of his homework.
This wasn’t shocking. We could’ve wallpapered his room in yellow that year.
Being a therapist, I of course had a “sensory integration/processing” view of this issue. (You’re the same way, right?!) He’s a super-intelligent kid, yet recalling multiple-step auditory directions was a challenge.
Therefore, remembering to write down the verbal directions for homework each day in every class was a slippery task. The details fell through the cracks.
To ‘test’ my observation I asked him what he’d do if I was a teacher and said, “Take out a piece of loose leaf paper. Put your first and last name in the top right-hand corner. Number it 1-10 and skip a line between each number. And please write in cursive.”
He simply responded, “That’s just too many words.”
I’ve thought about that statement many times since. I’ve even found myself quoting it when I hear someone using “too many words”, clearly losing an audience, classroom or NICU parent.
So why should this matter to you?
Here’s the thing:
We’re completely bombarded by sensory input right? Especially when working in the NICU. Monitors, phones, conversation after conversation, rounds, email, ventilator alarms, computer screens etc.
Then during our 17 minute lunch we may hear from family members or have 30 text messages from our friends who are off work that day.
I find myself driving home with the radio off craving uncluttered quiet space. You’ve been there.
Yet we often forget this when we create a PowerPoint, educate a NICU parent, or talk to our teenagers.
The best way to know you’re using too many words is that your colleague, child, patient, spouse, audience – well, their eyes start to glaze over! You know the look. The one where no one is present in those eyes anymore.
They’ve stopped taking in information. They’re trying to remember if they have any plans – and start looking for the door.
We know premature babies use gaze aversion to show us stress in their state system. Similarly, our state system is showing stress when we glaze over.
Since you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of all that sensory input, I want you to develop GLAZE AVERSION. Whether you’re presenting in rounds, speaking at the NANT conference or talking to your 16 year old, start to recognize when you’re using too many words.
Learn to hate the glaze. Because it means you’re not connecting anymore.
3 Ways to Master Glaze Aversion and Improve Communication:
1. Become Your Own Observer
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your communication style?
When presenting in rounds are you vague and rambling or do you succinctly present a few clear points? Do people start fidgeting when you speak? Does your spouse pick up the remote?
Pay close attention to the social cues people are giving you. Eye contact or glaze? Attentive posture or I-want-to-turn-and-run-posture?
Observe and respond. Reel yourself in. It keeps the glaze at bay.
2. When possible, use pictures or video.
When I see a PowerPoint slide that’s full of words, I immediately glaze over. You’ve lost me. You’re talking AND there are lots of words on the screen.
Show pictures or video when able. Ahhhh. It’s a relief. Pictures also foster emotion. Your audience, family, and NICU parents retain more when emotionally engaged.
3. Edit. Edit. Edit.
I think we’ve all been guilty of hanging a plan up at the bedside that was too elaborate. We had great intentions. There were lots of things to communicate.
The thing is, if that plan is 4 paragraphs long, no one will read it. Trust me.
There is a place for paragraphs and explanations. You may use them in a document people need to review before the next competency. Or an article that everyone must read to understand your new QI project.
But not for the bedside.
If your plan involves multiple steps, break them out into short numbered phrases with lots of space between them. Otherwise “it’s just too many words” and the glaze begins.
Edit everything you post at the bedside. Every email you write. Every slide you create. (Who likes to read an email that’s one giant lengthy run-on paragraph with no line breaks? No one. Value the other person’s time. Be clear.)
Create space between your valuable thoughts. Because we want them to be heard, retained and acted upon.
As you go through your day today, make a game of this. Pay attention to how people respond in rounds, at the bedside and at home when there are ‘just too many words’.
Master glaze aversion. It’s the first step to effortless communication.
By Sue Ludwig December 9, 2014