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Stepwise Success

To Communicate, Imitate

Published January 17, 2011 6:17 AM by Scott Warner

My wife and I often joke about thinking alike. I’ll say, "It’s great that you can finish my..." and she immediately adds, "... sentences." What’s interesting is it’s really true. We do finish each others thoughts and even sound alike. And our teenagers, who have spent most of their lives together, sound even more alike. We’re all too aware when they mimic their peers or, say, Beavis and Butthead.

According to Psychology Today, "research shows that we partially imitate the speech rate and intonation of the people we talk to." We unconsciously mimic word order, word choice, subtle variations in timing, regional accents, etc. That goes for nonverbal communication, too. It’s part of dialogue’s natural rhythm.

In your laboratory, for example, twenty-somethings have different ways of speaking, including mannerisms, than fifty-something coworkers; they not only talk about different things, they talk differently. This goes for same sex vs. opposite sex coworkers, too. We tend to seek those whom we feel most comfortable communicating with. Like hangs out with like.

What the above research suggests to me is style flexing is involuntary. The more we talk to each other, the less effort it takes. Much of this process happens in subtle ways we aren’t aware of. If generations and genders are put together, they have a tendency to speak alike over time, helping communication and teamwork.

That makes me wonder about faceless technology: emails, tweets, texting, etc. Another blog.

Can this happen across departments? Silos develop their own lexicons, speech patterns, intonations, body languages, and so on, that can make it difficult to communicate laboratory priorities. Nurses imitating each other will have no idea what lab techs are talking about. A nursing-laboratory dialogue will sound “unnatural” at first. But the more we talk, the easier it gets.

In time we can all learn to finish each other’s ...


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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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