Chloë Winegar

Repar, ARTH 487

May 11, 2009

What Are the Benefits of Good Communication?

Throughout this semester my ability to convey what I think or feel has improved drastically verbally.  I have been able to censor myself when necessary or speak up when something just is not right.  Particularly within this class, a vital part of the learning process is honest discussions of feelings through conversation or art.  Sometimes it would get extremely intense and emotional because of the lack of my and others lack of reservation, but overall it was completely worthwhile to express myself and listen to the true thoughts of others.  From this observation, I wondered how important communication is within the processes of therapeutic art or any aspect of living in order to feel happier.  In my own experiences from my “Artistic Expressions of Women with Breast Cancer” research presentation, my “Sweeten the Night” project, and personal memories, I took a serious look at how my openness reflected on others, and what I gained also.  I examined how honest communication (verbal or non-verbal) affects social relationships and individual satisfaction in business, medicine, and art.  An open communication system through talking, touching, and art-making improves the quality of life and is essential to true human connection and personal fulfillment.

Progress inside of a business or professional situation occurs when assertive communication occurs.  Without self-doubt or censorship, honesty saves time increasing the quality of what is actually said and what will get done.  I believe everyone’s work ethics could improve drastically if “people skills” were learned and practiced more frequently.  For instance, I am working at a job where very often my own managers will be immature and say condescending comments about me behind my back.  I have found the most success when I speak my mind in a polite way rather than just bottling up all my thoughts and concerns. Finding a happy medium between assertiveness, aggressiveness, and nothing is absolutely necessary.  I have observed many people in the work environment, and a large majority of people are extremely dissatisfied at their job.  Not that expressing every detail solves any issues, but I believe if my co-workers calmly opened up once in a while and shared their frustration, a more professional and comfortable atmosphere could occur.  And within that atmosphere, improved quality of life and work will occur.  An assertive communication system is favorable for all involved.  When Lisa and I started our service learning project, it was difficult to decide on specifics because I was reserved and hesitant to voice my opinion on a lot of the issues.   But with a small time limit and lots of planning to do, it was helpful when we started being honest with each other.  The more we started talking, the easier things went.  When the actual night happened, it was pretty vital that I communicate with new people.  Without a good sense of communication, the event would not have gone half as well.  I believe polite honesty is the only way for a professional situation to work, both in business and medical aspects.

The medical field requires good communication, not just in the way of handling prescriptions or diagnoses, but with emotions.  In the article “The Detached Healer” by Bernie Siegel, the problem of extremely impersonal doctors is addressed, which I found interesting to think about.  The barriers that many practitioners or surgeons put up prevent a lot of emotion from sinking in.  When the emotion does sink in though, the experience of a doctor treating a patient becomes much more fulfilling, for both parties involved.  I cannot count how many times I have gone to see a doctor only to get a simple prescription and nothing more.  I am not one to go into deep feelings constantly, but when I only see the back of a person, it feels rather awkward.  If I am in pain, more empathy from the person who treats me would be greatly appreciated.  Opening up feelings takes a lot of bravery, which many people can never find the courage to do.  Finding the strength to get rid of self-consciousness and allow oneself to get healed would improve the medical community in this country, rather than hiding personal feelings deeper and deeper with each appointment.  As Seigel puts it, describing the inhumanity of the provider, “[doctors] . . . have cultivated our detachment so effectively that our patients find us completely inhuman.  The truth without compassion is hostility” (Siegel 130).  Our society tends to be aggressive rather than compassionate, which is a major flaw in our medical system.  A true doctor simply wants to be able to help someone feel better.  That will not happen if he/she puts up an emotional barrier.  But if the barrier never goes up in the first place, like new doctors are taught how to deal with death more effectively and cope with the stress, then the insensitive factor would never arise.  Unless young doctors are not trained more effectively to be empathetic, then this routine of inhumane doctors will not change.

Perhaps verbal communication may not be the only way for doctors to relieve their own stress or help their patients.  Non-verbal communication can be much more effective with the majority of people.  In “A Course in Nonverbal Communication for Medical Education” by Cecile Carson, the primary subject is body language and how the way a doctor stands or makes eye contact can make all the difference between a nightmare at the doctor or a fulfilling experience in which the doctor and patient make a good connection.  When my good friend Jan was going through her chemotherapy, I pushed past my own fears of physical contact to make sure she was happier when I could be around her.  I used to be absolutely uncomfortable when a person would hug me or touch my shoulder, but I realized that the only way I can feel a true link to another person is through touch.  Since last summer, I have pushed myself to work past my wall of fear of intimacy by actually giving someone a hug if he/she needs it.  This may sound ridiculous to some people, but growing up in an emotionally distant family has made it hard to get close to anybody now, and it seems as if this society disapproves of genuine associations between people. Throughout this course, when I read the articles on physical touch, it was quite strange to think of what massage therapists can do.  I did not believe any of it, to be honest.  But at some point this semester something changed and I decided to open my mind to physical communication, and now my life has changed by my willingness to get close to another.  Any kind of touching or affection truly gets across desires and thoughts that are difficult to portray otherwise.

Another nonverbal communication method is through the arts, where repressed feelings are expressed much easier than having to put thoughts into spoken words.  I think art is a wonderful thing for that reason because there are no boundaries with any sort of art, once doubt is released.  Anybody can see a picture and gain some sort of meaning from it, since there are no translation issues.  It may be difficult for people who are not used to art to try it out, but the results are amazing.  When I researched the art of breast cancer patients, I thought it was extraordinary what some people who claim to never have done art could produce.  The women who attended group therapy sessions to discuss their pieces got a lot out of the process and were able to find themselves some peace in their horrific times.  When I observed Cathy at the Cancer Research Treatment Center, I was inspired by the response people had to making bracelets.  People consumed by thoughts of disease and fear would open up as soon as they were doing art.  I love arts-in-medicine for that.  The only time I feel content with myself comes after I converse with someone about their emotions.  More than that, the only time I feel content with myself is after I create a piece of art that satisfies me.  Art communicates so much personally and socially, I am constantly amazed by its power.

When we created art during the group presentations, I was amazed at how open everyone was.  I felt like I connected more to my classmates better than I have with many of my friends.  I am so afraid to actually open up, it was refreshing to get that rare connection to anybody.  It seems obvious that being more honest about feelings creates satisfaction, but I have had too many experiences of being brutally shut down for showing emotions.  When I happen to cry in public, I apologize profusely and feel immense guilt and shame for weeks.  But I do not know where this remorse stems from in the first place.  A life lived in fear is no life worth living, so it does not make sense that our society is afraid of any feeling.  Maybe I should narrow down the broad term of society into a more specific idea that is my father.  He truly fears emotion, or hates when anyone he loves gets down.  This frustrates me to no end, since it has translated into me getting annoyed by people who show emotion.  It is a hypocritical part of me that I cannot accept.  But when I stop repeating old habits, the feeling of opening up honestly to someone is amazing, especially when he/she accepts my emotions.  A good outlet for the irritation I have with my own petty fears is art.  After I switched majors to art, I noticed a shift in my general outlook on life.  I realized that art exists to aid in expressing emotions of any kind.  Apart from my life, people with diseases and are in incredible amounts of pain need art in order to survive.  I always am surprised to observe how much communication happens with a few colors or a specific process of creation.  Art has helped free me from myself, and it would be amazing if some sort of paint or musical note could reach someone every day.  This world would be a much better place to exist if art was spread frequently. 

Communication obviously has immense benefits, and during arts-in-medicine, I have certainly come to realize this.  During therapeutic class activities or real life experiences, I found strong communication to benefit myself and others involved.  Whether it is through art, music, socially, professionally, etc. I will strive to express myself better and listen harder.  Good communication makes the world a better place.

Bibliography (MLA)

Siegel, Bernie.  “The Detached Healer.”  Who is the Healer, Who is the Healed?  1989: 130.

Carson, Cecile.  A Course in Nonverbal Communication for Medical Education.  New York:             University of Rochester.  1991.

Scott, Elizabeth.  “Reduce Stress with Increased Assertiveness.” August 2006.