Jan Borch on Acem’s communication course
Medical doctor Jan Borch from Hamburg attended Acem’s international Training in Interpersonal Communication at Halvorsbøle earlier this year. “I had the chance to experience and work with my emotions. It was very intensive and emotional, and I liked it a lot. The group I was in was fine; everybody seemed to like each other, and I felt very safe.”
What were the benefits?
“I learnt a lot about myself and how others perceive me. I was surprised when one of them asked why I looked so serious. I hadn’t been aware of that, but gradually learnt that others perceive me that way when they see my face, which obviously reveals more than I was aware of. I didn’t know until then that there was a lack of congruence between my facial expression and how I felt inside. Now I see it more clearly – and my communication has improved as I have learned the importance of how we communicate nonverbally.
Helped me develop better communication
How did he learn this?
“The group gave me useful comments, like: ‘You have several faces – one looks like it is hiding something, one looks closed, like an oyster.’ The group found this irritating. Since they didn’t understand me, they were uncertain about how to approach me. I was taken by surprise at first, but it was important feedback. I have communicated better with my work colleagues after the course, and most of the changes I have observed are in relationships with my colleagues. I have felt more competent and open, and have more eye contact with others. Even at the grocery store, I have more eye contact with the person at the till than I used to. Although the course was a bit overwhelming in the beginning, I have felt a lot better afterwards.”
What is important in life?
“In the emergency unit in the hospital where I work, things happen very quickly, and communication is at times a challenge. In a pressed situation a colleague, or even a superior, may sound stricter than usual. Before the course, I used to take such reactions personally, whereas I am more relaxed now. Instead of reacting negatively towards the person, or overreacting, like I used to do sometimes, I now manage to accept that such reactions happen in emergency situations. I have become much more aware of how important communication is at the kind of job I have, and I have developed better relationships with my colleagues. Sometimes, when conflicts escalate, it is important to handle them in the best way possible. I have learned that it may sometimes be adequate to show that I am vulnerable. We are more likely to hurt others when we feel hurt ourselves. It also makes a difference to apologize – which I have tried out. This has sped up the positive development of my relationships. If we don’t take the opportunity when it occurs, valuable time may pass until we get another chance.
After the course, a central question for me has been: what is actually important to me? One of the group exercises made me more aware of who the most important people in my life are, and how valuable they are to me. I have been more in touch with them afterwards. It was very important to talk about such questions, which are easily forgotten in the busy daily life.”
I can change
“The communication course is one of the most important things I have ever done. It was a new experience. I talked about issues I usually don’t talk about. Four weeks after the course, I noticed that something had changed: in certain situations, I no longer need to be defensive. Life can be simpler; no need for fights. I used to struggle with intense emotional reactions at times. Things might have been different earlier if I had learned these communication skills earlier, but I have taken some steps in a new direction.”
Interviewed by Anne Grete Hersoug
Language editor: Ann Kunish
Photos: Torbjørn Hobbel