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Are you aware of your habits?

When the car is stopped at the lights you often put your fingers in your mouth.  Are you aware?

A habit is defined as:

Something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it. Cambridge dictionary

A ritual is defined as:

A set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony. Cambridge dictionary

Habits can become a problem. Like doing the same thing for everyone who asks for your help with the ‘same’ issue.There is no thinking in habitual behavior. There are many habits that are unhelpful.

A ritual on the other hand can be chosen and practiced so that they are a part of your repertoire when you are faced with a particular challenge- like hand washing before greeting a patient if you are a healthcare professional. A ritual is performed with mindfulness and awareness. A ritual is deliberate and ceremonial, usually done with reverence and respect. So much better than picking your nose!

  • List your habits, including the nail biting.
  • List the rituals that might make you better at your job.

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What did you think about on the way to work?

What did you think about as you made your way to work? Were you already at work in your head? Ruminating on the past? Worrying about the future? Did you grumble to yourself about the commute? The unreliable public transport? The traffic jam? The ‘idiot’ who cut you off at the junction? Did you read the ‘fake news’? Did you look at Instagram posts or catch up on Facebook? Were you one of those people yelling into your phone on the bus or tram?

Immediately following their regular commute to work, participants completed questionnaires regarding state driver stress and anger during that commute. Then, immediately following completion of that work day, they completed a state version of the Workplace Aggression Scale. As state driver stress increased, the frequency of both expressed hostility and obstructionism increased (independently) during that work day, but only among male employees. In contrast, overt aggression during that work day was greatest among males who were higher in physical aggressiveness as a general trait characteristic. The present study highlights the interactive nature of traffic and workplace environments, in that negative experiences in the traffic environment may spill over for some individuals to influence non driving events

Journal of Applied Social Psychology Dwight A. Hennessy

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Do you reflect?

Whether things go well or badly do you reflect on the experience? How? When? Why? What difference does it make? When was the last time someone said thank you? What was the context? What was your role in that exchange? How did that impact on your behavior in future exchanges?

If you’re interested in an easy way to improve your job performance and boost your career, it’s time to start a writing habit. A study from Harvard Business School tested whether taking 15 minutes at the end of a work day to reflect on that day’s work improved their performance and found the participants tasked with daily written reflection did 22.8 percent better on an assessment than the control group.

Hannah Hamilton

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What does your face say?

Are you aware what your facial muscles are doing when you are engaged in conversation? What about your neck and your shoulders? What do they leak about your mood? Your attitude? Your perspective? Is it possible they are sending entirely the wrong message?

Even though, there was no evidence found that displaying positive facial expression will increase the level of follower trust in their leader (both, affectively and cognitively) and their perceptions of leadership effectiveness, still the opposite was found to be true, which is a negative relationship between negative facial expressions and leadership effectiveness. This means, that the more the leader expresses negative facial cues such as lowered eyebrows and lip corners down, the less effective he or she is.

Pia Loeper, University of Twente

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Who taught you how to complain?

When during your training or your induction did anyone teach you how and when to express yourself when something did not meet with your expectations? Your parent might have said:

I know you’re angry darling but we don’t scratch and bite

How do your customers, clients, patients know how to complain? How did you learn to respond? Who models that behaviour for you? What is the approach to giving or receiving negative feedback where you work?

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Did this person need those pills?

No matter what business you are in you might ask yourself if whatever you just sold to your customer is what they really needed. If you are a doctor that question cuts deeper- did you really identify  that person’s problem or did your prescription just get them out the door?

Inappropriate prescriptions are known to pose health risks for older adults, leading to unnecessary hospitalisations and undue cost. Budnitz et al

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What do you do that you could stop?

We often do things out of habit rather than for a good reason. As healthcare professionals that might be poor. Ordering tests because it’s something we always do ‘ in these circumstances’ might lead to  problems- specifically false positive and false negative results. When that happens it doesn’t just buy time while we think of a diagnosis it also potentially creates a false diagnosis. What if you were a doctor and were held to account for every false diagnosis you made?

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You are a prop too

In any theatre where people interact- including your office- you are also a prop. Anyone who enters that room will react to you as much as they might respond to anything else in there. Your look, smell and sound will draw a reaction. You may not be able to change many of your attributes- but you can’t afford to be unaware of them.  How do you take this into account when you plan that interaction?

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Do you prepare to disappoint?

In any business there will be time when you don’t see eye to eye with your customer.  In fact there will be times when you disagree with them because what they want is either impossible, illegal, unavailable or otherwise difficult for you to deliver.

You might encounter that situation more than once in the course of your day. You expect it right? So if you are a doctor how do you prepare to deliver that news to a patient?

Once you’ve dumped your baggage and assumptions, approached patients with humanity and compassion, and discovered the real problem, what’s your next step? That depends upon what the real problem you discovered is. Is the problem something that is your fault or one you can solve? Did the patient have expectations that weren’t correct? Have an honest and forthright discussion with them. If you can do that, you’ll be getting thank you cards from your patients for a very long time. David J. Norris, MD

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Do you use aids to help you explain?

If your job involves explaining complicated ideas- and let’s face it nothing is simple in medicine- do you use models or aids of any kind?

if not, why not? If you do what do you use and how do you know they work? How do you explain sciatica, heart disease, asthma, cancer?

Physicians cannot control all the reasons for patients pursuing legal atonement but they are able to determine the quality of their connection with them, by improving their communication skills and techniques. Law-suits for medical negligence can be lowered or prevented by taking steps to keep patients content, thus making them more compliant to the treatment, adhering to the medical policies and procedures. Tevanov et al 

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