Comms Lab: Understand the Driver

Comms Lab: Episode 8

Respond to Emotion by Understanding the Driver

Our ability to READ emotions in others, is a key determinant of success in any difficult conversation.

But even if we read the emotion correctly, it’s our RESPONSE to that emotion that will make or break the conversation.

I feel like this a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way many times over in my work in the emergency department, where emotions can run high for patients and staff alike.

This is the second video of a series on the NURSE acronym, a set of well-studied tools for responding to emotion, and it builds on the first skill of Naming the Emotion.

In this video, I share what I’ve learned about the skill of Understanding the Driver.

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

As I hope you’ll see, the most obvious response is not necessarily the best one.

0:00 – The poker game of life
0:18 – Understanding the driver
0:41 – The biggest mistake
1:25 – A better way to do it
2:12 – Putting your cards on the table
2:55 – Breaking it down
4:35 – What winning looks like


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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