Comms Lab: Explore the story

Comms Lab: Episode 11

Defusing strong emotions – how to consolidate your gains by exploring their story.

Defusing strong emotions can be a bit like a game of chess.

Your opening gambit is often the key to setting things up for success.

And yet, as anyone who works in healthcare knows, events can take unexpected turns, and even a hint of complacency can be enough to have you back playing defense.

All of a sudden, the person you’ve just managed to talk down to a 6/10, is back up at a 10/10.

And if you’re not careful, pretty soon you’ll be running out of options.

No one likes losing a game that they thought they had in the bag!

In this video, I reflect on the skill that I’ve found to be most useful for consolidating the gains you’ve achieved with your initial emotional de-escalation.

Beware, that using this skill too early in the conversation may expose you to an attack…

But when deployed after things have simmered down a bit, this skill can help you finish the job you started, and move the other person into a place where they are ready to collaborate.

This is the fifth video of a series on “NURSE“, a set of well-studied tools for responding to emotion.

Name the emotion and Normalising for the Population
Understand the driver (behind the emotion)
Respect, Praise and Appreciation
Supportive Statements
Explore the story.

Thanks for watching:)

0:09 – The question is…
1:03 – You need to get curious
1:33 – Open Questions …Explore
1:59 – Reflect Back
2:38 – The reason why it works
2:59 – Trust and Catharsis


NURSE acronym **

Name the Emotion; Normalising for the Population“It seems like this whole situation has left you feeling pretty frustrated.”
Understand the Driver (Behind the Emotion)“You’ve been through a huge ordeal today. I can only imagine it must have been incredibly scary for you.”
Respect, Praise, and Appreciation“You’ve done an amazing job looking after your Mum. It can’t have been easy.”
Supportive Statements“I’m here to look after you. It’s really important to me that we relieve your pain as best we can.”
Explore the Story“What was that like? Tell me more.”

** There are many iterations of the NURSE acronym with alternative wordings, depending on your source, though they all generally refer to the same skills. I intentionally take “the patient” out of the wording of the skills as I see the elements as broadly generalizable skills for responding to emotion, even outside the clinical context.



Further Links

Comms Lab

A path to highly effective communication skills

Hayden is an emergency physician at University Hospital Geelong and a senior lecturer at Deakin University, Geelong. He is somewhat obsessed with the science and art of effective communication, and in particular: difficult conversations. He believes that we can all get better at having difficult conversations, and that the process of learning to do so can be seriously fun.

Hayden is also an avid but terrible surfer, ad hoc gardener, and dad to two awesome kids.

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