As a technical communication major, I am more aware of the importance of good document design and creating user-centered content. Whether writing instructions on how to assemble a table or writing content for the web, the information needs to reflect the user-experience. Letting Go of the Words, by Ginny Redish was my go-to book for the “Writing & Designing for the Web I & II” courses. The book helped me to create more purposeful content.
User-experience applies to verbal communication, too. The exchange of information needs to be clear, so the listener understands the way the message was intended. It’s never to late to work on improving communication. You can start by:
- Actively listening
- Paying attention to nonverbal cues
- Keeping stress in check
- Asserting yourself
Effective communication is important in all areas of our lives—even when the topic is uncomfortable.
Communicating your Wishes
After I shared the news about my car accident with one of our daughters, the conversation turned to an uncomfortable topic (for me)—end-of-life wishes. As a medical resident, she has seen her fair share of families that were forced to make difficult decisions in the midst of their profound grief.
When our kids were young, my husband and I got a will and advanced directive. The main purpose was to ensure our four children were taken care of, in the event something happened to us. As a young parent, I didn’t want to think about not being around to watch our children grow-up, get married, and have children of their own. We had to answer if we wanted to be resuscitated, put on a mechanical ventilator, and donate our organs—not fun stuff to think about.
Completing the directive was an emotional experience. I was so freaked out that I wrote I had to be “REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DEAD” (in all caps) before anyone removes my organs. Our lawyer laughed when she saw my note. She understood most people felt that way about donations, but no one had ever listed their request the way I did.
Twenty years later, I’m still uneasy when people bring up the end-of-life topic. However, I saw firsthand how the benefits of communicating the wishes eliminated added stress on the family, when my mother-in-law became ill.
The conversation with my daughter made me realize that it’s time for us to update our documents. Time will tell if I’m ready to remove my special request.
Have you communicated your end-of-life wishes with your family?