Need Communication Skills? You Already Have the Basics

Feb 2, 2023 | Coaching, Leadership

I’ve been coaching women physicians for more than five years now, helping them build lives that work personally and professionally. We start with the places where they have the most control to make changes. Charting efficiency, prioritizing sleep, delegating what they don’t need to do themselves, setting clearer boundaries.

Things get better. Their heads emerge above the waterline. They begin to do more than just survive each day.

And they get a perspective on the issues that remain.

The most common struggle that they voice to me at this point is being able to effectively advocate for changes beyond their sphere of control. They hesitate to speak up or don’t know what to say or aren’t sure how to clearly present their ideas to someone who likely has a different agenda.

And so, in an effort to be more helpful, I’ve been educating myself on communication skills and influence strategies. Which has led me to read recently:

  • How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (an oldie that has not lost its value)
  • Becoming a Resonant Leader by Annie Mckee, Richard Boyatzis, and Fran Johnston
  • Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald Phillips
  • The Art of Persuasion: Winning Without Intimidation by Bob Burg

What surprised me most is how similar and simple the key messages in their tomes are. Here’s my Cliff Notes version:

  • Be empathetic; think about what the other person most wants and needs
  • Give authentic appreciation; humans like to be appreciated and feel valued
  • Don’t fight to be right because it doesn’t induce people to your side (and thus doesn’t get you what you ultimately want)

These tips are not rocket science. These are behavior mores that we learn in kindergarten.

And yet, these simple “strategies” are the power levers for influencing change.

What I see as so exciting is that the bright, dedicated women physicians I work with are generally strong in emotional intelligence—competencies that form the foundation for these strategies.

Too often, though, they don’t realize the merit of the skills they already have, due in part to the value placed on the top-down, mandate style of leadership in healthcare. Yes, there are specific communication and leadership skills that they can learn or bone up on. But they have the most essential ingredients to become articulate advocates and effective leaders.

Great leaders and change agents use empathy and other EI skills to their advantage. You can too.

If you’d like some help building on the inner resources you already have to become a more effective communicator, leader, or change agent, drop me a line!


Diane W. Shannon


Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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Yes! Send me my free ebook:

The Challenges Women Physicians Face: What’s Needed to Shift from Striving to Thriving.

Learn what women physicians across the country told me about the barriers they face--and about potential solutions. You'll also receive my biweekly newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC

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