Today's Notion

The Power of Self-Reflection in Effective Communication

  • 1 Section 1: The Role of Self-Reflection in Communication
  • 2 Section 2: Developing Self-Reflection Habits
  • 3 Section 3: Enhancing Verbal Communication through Self-Reflection
  • 4 Section 4: The Power of Active Listening and Self-Reflection
  • 5 Section 5: Managing Emotions and Triggers in Communication
  • 6 Section 6: Strengthening Relationships through Self-Reflection
  • 7 Conclusion
  • 9 Conclusion
  • 10 Breaking Barriers Mastering the Art of Achieving the Impossible
  • 11 Kick Muscle Cramps to the Curb
  • 12 30 Days to a More Creative You Unlock Your Inner Genius with Daily Habits
  • 13 Embracing Growth A Journey Towards Openness And Learning

In today's fast-paced world, effective communication is vital in our personal and professional lives. Understanding that communication goes beyond what we say or convey is important. It is also deeply influenced by our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Self-reflection plays a crucial role here. Looking inward, getting to know ourselves, and understanding how our communication impacts others is self-reflection. Enhancing our ability to communicate and form strong connections can be achieved by cultivating self-awareness and self-reflection. Discover practical strategies to incorporate self-reflection into our daily lives in this article that explores the profound impact of self-reflection on effective communication.

Section 1: The Role of Self-Reflection in Communication

Self-reflection is a gateway to self-awareness, enabling us to delve deep into our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through self-reflection, we can identify our communication patterns, both positive and negative, and gain valuable insights into our strengths and areas for improvement. The ability to communicate effectively is enhanced when we have heightened self-awareness. When we understand ourselves better, we can make conscious choices about interacting with others. Additionally, self-reflection fosters empathy and understanding, allowing us to understand another person's perspective within the context of the conversation.

Section 2: Developing Self-Reflection Habits

Developing self-reflection habits requires intention and practice. Integrating self-reflection into our daily routines, whether through dedicated reflection time or incorporating it into existing activities, helps solidify it as a consistent practice. Various techniques and exercises can help us cultivate self-reflection as a regular habit. One effective method is journaling, where we can write down our thoughts, emotions, and observations about our communication experiences. Meditation and deep breathing exercises encourage self-reflection by bringing our attention to the present. Additionally, self-assessment tools or questionnaires can provide structured guidance in exploring our communication strengths and areas that need improvement.

Section 3: Enhancing Verbal Communication through Self-Reflection

Verbal communication is a fundamental aspect of our interactions, and self-reflection can profoundly impact how we express ourselves verbally. By cultivating self-awareness, we can become more conscious of our speech patterns, tone of voice, and clarity of expression. Self-reflection helps us regulate our speech rate, ensuring that we neither rush nor speak too slowly but instead find a balanced pace that enhances understanding and engagement. Moreover, self-reflection enables us to manage our emotions during communication, preventing us from becoming reactive or allowing our emotions to overshadow the message we intend to convey. By consciously reflecting on our feelings and thoughts, we can communicate more effectively, expressing ourselves with clarity, empathy, and authenticity.

Section 4: The Power of Active Listening and Self-Reflection

Effective communication involves not only speaking but also actively listening. Self-reflection plays a crucial role in enhancing our active listening skills. By practicing self-reflection, we become more attuned to our listening behaviors, such as interrupting, being distracted, or making assumptions. We develop the ability to truly listen to others, not just for the words spoken but also for the underlying meaning and emotions conveyed. Self-reflection helps us identify biases and judgments that might hinder our listening abilities, allowing us to approach conversations with an open mind and genuine curiosity. Through active listening and self-reflection, we can foster deeper connections, understanding, and mutual respect in our communication interactions.

Section 5: Managing Emotions and Triggers in Communication

Emotions play a significant role in communication, often influencing our interactions' tone, direction, and outcomes. Self-reflection equips us with the tools to manage our feelings and triggers effectively. By exploring our emotional responses and triggers during conversations, we can better understand why certain situations or topics evoke specific reactions within us. Self-reflection helps us identify the patterns and triggers that might lead to communication breakdowns or emotional escalation. With this awareness, we can develop strategies to regulate our emotions, maintain composure, and respond thoughtfully rather than reactively. By managing our emotions through self-reflection, we can create a more conducive and harmonious communication environment.

Section 6: Strengthening Relationships through Self-Reflection

Effective communication is the bedrock of strong relationships, and self-reflection is crucial in building and nurturing these connections. By practicing self-reflection, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, enhancing our ability to understand and empathize with others. Self-awareness allows us to recognize how our communication styles, behaviors, and choices impact our relationships. It helps us identify communication patterns that might hinder connection or lead to misunderstandings. By incorporating self-reflection into our relationship communication, we can foster understanding, empathy, and trust. It enables us to create an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and respected, strengthening our relationships on both personal and professional fronts.

Self-reflection is a powerful tool that empowers us to navigate the complex communication landscape with authenticity, empathy, and self-awareness. By incorporating self-reflection into our daily lives, we can enhance our communication skills, deepen our understanding of ourselves and others, and cultivate meaningful connections. Developing effective communication is a lifelong process, and self-reflection is a constant companion. So, let us embrace the power of self-reflection and unlock the full potential of our communication abilities.

Q: How can self-reflection improve my communication skills?

Self-reflection improves communication skills by enhancing self-awareness, helping identify communication patterns and areas for improvement, and fostering empathy and understanding.

Q: What are some practical techniques for developing self-reflection habits?

Practical techniques for developing self-reflection include journaling, mindfulness practices, self-assessment tools, and integrating reflection into daily routines.

Q: How does self-reflection enhance verbal communication?

Self-reflection enhances verbal communication by promoting self-awareness of speech patterns, tone of voice, and emotional regulation, leading to clearer and more authentic expression.

Q: How does self-reflection contribute to active listening?

Self-reflection contributes to active listening by raising awareness of listening behaviors, biases, and assumptions, enabling individuals to listen with curiosity and open-mindedness.

Q: Can self-reflection help manage emotions during communication?

Yes, self-reflection helps manage emotions during communication by providing insight into emotional triggers and allowing individuals to develop strategies for emotional regulation and thoughtful response.

Q: How does self-reflection strengthen relationships?

Self-reflection strengthens relationships by fostering self-awareness, empathy, and understanding, enabling individuals to create an environment of mutual respect and effective communication.

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Q: How can self-reflection help in managing difficult conversations or conflicts?

Self-reflection is invaluable in managing difficult conversations or conflicts. It allows individuals to recognize their biases, triggers, and emotional responses, enabling them to approach such situations with a calmer and more composed demeanor. Through self-reflection, individuals can gain clarity on their own perspectives and open themselves to understanding others' viewpoints, fostering constructive dialogue and resolution.

Q: How can I incorporate self-reflection into my daily routine?

Self-reflection can be incorporated into your daily routine by taking five minutes during your morning or evening routine, walking, or before bedtime. Self-reflection can also be incorporated into journaling, meditation, and mindfulness practices. To determine which method works best, you should try several different approaches.

Q: Can self-reflection help in professional communication as well?

Absolutely! Self-reflection is valuable in both personal and professional communication. It enhances understanding and connecting with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. By practicing self-reflection, you can improve your leadership skills, collaborate effectively, and navigate challenging professional situations gracefully and poised.

Q: Is self-reflection a one-time practice, or should it be ongoing?

Self-reflection is an ongoing practice. No one-time event can fulfill this need, but rather a lifelong journey of self-discovery and growth. As we evolve, our communication styles and challenges may change. Regular self-reflection ensures that we adapt, learn, and refine our communication skills to align with our ever-changing experiences and environments.

A critical element of effective communication is self-reflection. Through self-reflection, we navigate the complexities of communication with authenticity, empathy, and intentionality. By cultivating self-awareness, understanding our emotions, and embracing self-reflection as a consistent practice, we can become skilled communicators who forge deeper connections and foster understanding. Join me on this transformative journey of self-reflection as we enhance our communication skills and enrich our relationships.  

Feature Photo by Yeshi Kangrang

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Reflecting on the communication process in health care. Part 1: clinical practice—breaking bad news

Beverley Anderson

Macmillan Uro-oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust

View articles · Email Beverley

This is the first of a two-part article on the communication process in health care. The interactive process of effective communication is crucial to enabling healthcare organisations to deliver compassionate, high-quality nursing care to patients, in facilitating interactions between the organisation and its employees and between team members. Poor communication can generate negativity; for instance, misperception and misinterpretation of the messages relayed can result in poor understanding, patient dissatisfaction and lead to complaints. Reflection is a highly beneficial tool. In nursing, it enables nurses to examine their practice, identify problems or concerns, and take appropriate action to initiate improvements. This two-part article examines the role of a uro-oncology clinical nurse specialist (UCNS). Ongoing observations and reflections on the UCNS's practice had identified some pertinent issues in the communication process, specifically those relating to clinical practice and the management of practice-related issues and complaints. Part 1 examines the inherent problems in the communication process, with explanation of their pertinence to delivering optimal health care to patients, as demonstrated in four case studies related to breaking bad news to patients and one scenario related to communicating in teams. Part 2 will focus on the management of complaints.

In health care, effective communication is crucial to enabling the delivery of compassionate, high-quality nursing care to patients ( Bramhall, 2014 ) and in facilitating effective interactions between an organisation and its employees ( Barber, 2016 ; Ali, 2017 ). Poor communication can have serious consequences for patients ( Pincock, 2004 ; Barber, 2016 ; Ali, 2017 ). Misperception or misinterpretation of the messages relayed can result in misunderstanding, increased anxiety, patient dissatisfaction and lead to complaints ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Bumb et al, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ), which, as evidence has shown, necessitates efficient management to ensure positive outcomes for all stakeholders—patients, health professionals and the healthcare organisation ( Barber, 2016 ; Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). Complaints and their management will be discussed in Part 2.

Reflection is a highly beneficial tool ( Oelofsen, 2012 ), one that has played a key role in the author's ongoing examination of her practice. In this context, reflection enables a personal insight into the communication process and highlights the inherent challenges of communication and their pertinence to patient care and clinical practice outcomes ( Bramhall, 2014 ). The author, a uro-oncology clinical nurse specialist (UCNS), is required to ensure that appropriate reassurance and support is given to patients following the receipt of a urological cancer diagnosis ( Macmillan Cancer Support, 2014 ; Hemming, 2017 ). Support consists of effective communication, which is vital to ensuring patients are fully informed and understand their condition, prognosis and treatment and, accordingly, can make the appropriate choices and decisions for their relevant needs ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ).

Reflection is a process of exploring and examining ourselves, our perspectives, attributes, experiences, and actions and interactions, which helps us gain insight and see how to move forward ( Gillett et al, 2009:164 ). Reflection is a cycle ( Figure 1 ; Gibbs, 1988 ), which, in nursing, enables the individual to consciously think about an activity or incident, and consider what was positive or challenging and, if appropriate, plan how a similar activity might be enhanced, improved or done differently in the future ( Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 2019 ).

reflection essay on effective communication

Reflective practice

Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one's actions and experiences so as to engage in a process of continuous learning ( Oelofsen, 2012 ), while enhancing clinical knowledge and expertise ( Caldwell and Grobbel, 2013 ). A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning—as depicted by Gibbs' reflective cycle (1988) . Deliberate reflection on experience, emotions, actions and responses is essential to informing the individual's existing knowledge base and in ensuring a higher level of understanding ( Paterson and Chapman, 2013 ). Reflection on practice is a key skill for nurses—it enables them to identify problems and concerns in work situations and in so doing, to make sense of them and to make contextually appropriate changes if they are required ( Oelofsen, 2012 ).

Throughout her nursing career, reflection has been an integral part of the author's ongoing examinations of her practice. The process has enabled numerous opportunities to identify the positive and negative aspects of practice and, accordingly, devise strategies to improve both patient and practice outcomes. Reflection has also been a significant part author's professional development, increasing her nursing knowledge, insight and awareness and, as a result, the author is an intuitive practitioner, who is able to deliver optimal care to her patients.


Figure 2 provides a visual image of communication—it is both an expressive, message-sending, and a receptive, message-receiving, process ( Berlo, 1960 ; McClain, 2012 ; Evans, 2017 ). This model was originally designed to improve technical communication, but has been widely applied in different fields ( Berlo, 1960 ). Communication is the sharing of information, thoughts and feelings between people through speaking, writing or body language, via phone, email and social media ( Bramhall, 2014 ; Barber, 2016 ; Doyle, 2019 ). Effective communication extends the concept to require that transmitted content is received and understood by someone in the way it was intended.

reflection essay on effective communication

The process is more than just exchanging information. It is about the components/elements of the communication process, ie understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information—the tone of voice, as well as the actual words spoken, hearing, listening, perception, honesty, and ensuring that the messages relayed are correctly interpreted and understood ( Bramhall, 2014 ; Barber, 2016 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). It is about considering emotions, such as shock, anger, fear, anxiety and distress ( Bumb et al, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ). Language and conceptual barriers may also negatively impact on the efficacy of the communication being relayed.

Challenges of effective communication

The following sections explain the challenges involved in communication—namely, conveying a cancer diagnosis or related bad news.

Tone of voice and words spoken

According to Barber (2016) , when interacting with patients, especially communicating ‘bad news’ to them, both the tone of voice and the actual words spoken are important. The evidence has shown that an empathetic and sensitive tone is conducive to providing appropriate reassurance and in aiding understanding ( McClain, 2012 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ). However, an apathetic and insensitive tone will likely evoke fear, anxiety and distress ( Pincock, 2004 ; Ali, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). In terms of the words used, the use of jargon, or highly technical language and words that imply sarcasm and disrespect, can negatively impact on feelings and self-confidence ( Doyle, 2019 ).

Hearing what is being conveyed is an important aspect of effective communication. When interacting with patients it is vital to consider potential barriers such as language (ie, is the subject highly technical or is English not the patient's first language) and emotions (ie shock, anger, fear, anxiety, distress) ( Bumb et al, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ). A patient may fail to hear crucial information because he or she is distressed during an interaction, or may be unable to fully understand the information being relayed ( Bumb et al, 2017 ). Good communication involves ascertaining what has been heard and understood by the patient, allowing them to express their feelings and concerns, and ensuring these are validated ( Evans, 2017 ).

Listening to the patient

Listening is a deliberate act that requires a conscious commitment from the listener ( Shipley, 2010 ). The key attributes of listening include empathy, silence, attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication, and the ability to be non-judgemental and accepting ( Shipley, 2010 ). Listening is an essential component of effective communication and a crucial element of nursing care ( Shipley, 2010 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). In health care, an inability to fully listen to and appreciate what the patient is saying could result in them feeling that their concerns are not being taken seriously. As observed by the author in practice, effective listening is essential to understanding the patient's concerns.

Perception, interpretation, understanding

Relevant and well-prepared information is key to the patient's perception and interpretation of the messages relayed ( McClain, 2012 ). It is vital to aiding their understanding and to informing their personal choices and decisions. If a patient were to misinterpret the information received, this could likely result in a misunderstanding of the messages being relayed and, consequently, lead to an inability to make clear, informed decisions about their life choices ( McClain, 2012 ; Bramhall, 2014 ).

Fully informing the patient and treating them with honesty, respect and dignity

In making decisions about their life/care, a patient is entitled to all information relevant to their individual situation and needs (including those about the actual and potential risks of treatment and their likely disease trajectory) ( McClain, 2012 ). Information equals empowerment—making a decision based on full information about a prognosis, for example, gives people choices and enables them to put their affairs in order ( Evans, 2017 ). Being honest with a patient not only shows respect for them, their feelings and concerns, it also contributes to preserving the individual's dignity ( Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). However, as observed in practice, a reluctance on the health professional's part to be totally open and honest with a patient can result in confusion and unnecessary emotional distress.

When reflecting on the efficacy of the communication being relayed, it is important for health professionals to acknowledge the challenges and consider how they may actually or potentially impact on the messages being relayed ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ).

Communication and the uro-oncology clinical nurse specialist

It is devastating for a patient to receive the news that they have cancer ( Bumb et al, 2017 ). Providing a patient with a cancer diagnosis—the ‘breaking of bad news’, defined as any information that adversely and seriously affects an individual's view of his or her future ( Schildmann et al 2005 )—is equally devastating for the professional ( Bumb et al, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ). It is thus imperative to ensure the appropriate support is forthcoming following receipt of bad news ( Evans, 2017 ).

Integral to the delivery of bad news is the cancer CNS, in this context, the UCNS, who is acknowledged to be in the ideal position to observe the delivery of bad news (usually by a senior doctor in the urology clinic), and its receipt by patients ( Macmillan Cancer Support, 2014 ; Hemming, 2017 ), and to offer appropriate support afterwards ( Evans, 2017 ). Support includes allocating appropriate time with the patient, and their family, after the clinic appointment to ensure they have understood the discussion regarding the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options ( Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ). In this instance, effective communication, as well as the time required, is usually tailored to each individual patient, allowing trust to be built ( Bumb et al, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ).

In the performance of her role, the UCNS is fully aware of the importance placed on delivering bad news well. She has seen first hand how bad news given in a less than optimal manner can impact on the patient's emotions and their subsequent ability to deal with the results. Hence, her role in ensuring that the appropriate support is forthcoming following the delivery of bad news is imperative. It is important to understand that the delivery of bad news is a delicate task—one that necessitates sensitivity and an appreciation of the subsequent impact of the news on the individual concerned. It should also be acknowledged that while the receipt of bad news is, understandably, difficult for the patient, its delivery is also extremely challenging for the health professional ( Bumb et al, 2017 ).

Communicating bad news

The primary functions of effective communication in this instance are to enhance the patient's experience and to motivate them to take control of their situation ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ).

Telling a patient that they have a life-threatening illness such as cancer, or that their prognosis is poor and no further treatment is available to them, is a difficult and uncomfortable task for the health professional ( Bumb et al, 2017 ). It is a task that must be done well nonetheless ( Schildmann, 2005 ). Doing it well is reliant on a number of factors:

  • Ensuring communicated information is sensitively delivered ( Hanratty et al 2012 ) to counter the ensuing shock following the patient's receipt of the bad news ( McClain, 2012 )
  • Providing information that is clear, concise and tailored to meeting the individual's needs ( Hemming, 2017 )
  • Acknowledging and respecting the patient's feelings, concerns and wishes ( Evans 2017 ).

This approach to care is important to empower patients to make the right choices and decisions regarding their life/care, and gives them the chance to ‘put their affairs in order’ ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ).

Choices and decision-making

Case studies 1 and 2 show the importance of honesty, respect, listening and affording dignity to patients by health professionals, in this case senior doctors and the UCNS. The issue of choice and decision-making is highlighted. It is important to note that, while emphasis is placed on patients receiving all the pertinent information regarding their individual diagnosis and needs ( McClain 2012 ), despite receipt of this information, a patient may still be unable to make a definite decision regarding their care. A patient may even elect not to have any proposed treatment, a decision that some health professionals find difficult to accept, but one that must be respected nevertheless ( Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ).

Case study 1. Giving a poor prognosis and accepting the patient's decision

Jane Green, aged 48, received a devastating cancer diagnosis, with an extremely poor prognosis. It was evident that the news was not what she expected. She had been convinced that she had irritable bowel syndrome and, hence, a cancer diagnosis was quite a shock. Nevertheless, she had, surprisingly, raised a smile with the witty retort: ‘Cancer, you bastard—how dare you get me.’ Mrs Green had been married to her second husband for 3 years. Sadly, her first husband, with whom she had two daughters, aged 17 and 21, had died from a heart attack at the age of 52. His sudden death was hugely upsetting for his daughters; consequently, Mrs Green's relationship with her girls (as she lovingly referred to them) was extremely close. The legacy of having two parents who had died young was not one Mrs Green wished to pass on to her daughters. Her main concern, therefore, was to minimise the inevitable distress that would ensue, following her own imminent death.

In the relatively short time that Mrs Green had to digest the enormity and implications of her diagnosis, she had been adamant that she did not wish to have any life-prolonging interventions, particularly if they could not guarantee a reasonable extension of her life, and whose effects would impact on the time she had left. This decision was driven by previously having observed her mother-in-law's experience of cancer: its management with chemotherapy and the resultant effect on her body and her eventual, painful demise. Mrs Green's memory of this experience was still vivid, and had heightened her fears and anxieties, and reinforced her wish not to undergo similar treatment.

Mrs Green requested a full and honest discussion and explanation from the consultant urologist and the UCNS regarding the diagnosis and its implications. This included the estimated prognosis, treatment interventions and the relevant risks and benefits—specifically, their likely impact on her quality of life. In providing Mrs Green with this information, the consultant and the UCNS had ensured information was clear and concise, empathetic and sensitive to her needs ( Shipley, 2010 ; Hanratty, et al, 2012 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ) and, importantly, that her request for honesty was respected. Not disclosing the entire truth can ‘inadvertently create a false sense of hope for a cure and perceptions of a longer life expectancy’ ( Bumb et al, 2017:574 ). Being honest had empowered Mrs Green to come to terms with both the diagnosis and prognosis, to consider the options as well as the risks and benefits. She had a choice between quantity of life and quality of life. Mrs Green elected for quality of life and, accordingly, made decisions that she felt were in her own, and her family's, best interests.

Despite receiving pertinent information and sound advice on why a patient should agree to treatment intervention, they may still elect not to have any treatment ( Ali, 2017 ; Evans, 2017 ; Hemming, 2017 ). This decision, as observed by the UCNS in practice, is difficult for some health professionals to accept. In Mrs Green's case, accepting her decision not to have any treatment was extremely difficult for both the consultant and the UCNS. In an attempt to try to change Mrs Green's mind, the consultant asked the UCNS to speak to her. The UCNS was aware that the consultant's difficulty to accept the decision was compounded by Mrs Green's age (48) and a desire to give her more time. However, the UCNS had listened closely to Mrs Green's wishes and, in view of her disclosure regarding the experience of her mother-in-law's death, her first husband's untimely death, her fear of upsetting her daughters and her evident determination to keep control of her situation, the UCNS felt compelled to respect her decision.

Following the consultant's request, the UCNS spoke to Mrs Green but, on hearing what she had to say regarding her decision not to have more treatment, concluded that she had to respect Mrs Green's decision. She also clarified whether Mrs Green were willing to continue communication with her GP and ensured that the GP was fully updated regarding current events. Mrs Green had thanked the staff for all their support, but did not wish to continue follow-up with the service. The GP assured the UCNS that she would keep a close eye on Mrs Green and her family.

Case study 2. Giving an honest account of disease progression

The following case study explains how a reluctance by health professionals to be totally honest with a patient had inadvertently hampered the individual's ability to make informed decisions regarding his life choices.

Mr Brown, aged 87, had been previously diagnosed and treated for cancer. On his referral to the urology clinic, his disease had progressed to the metastatic stage, which had limited his management options to palliative care.

Since we have established that delivering bad news to a patient is a difficult task ( Bumb et al, 2017 ), it is not surprising that some health professionals fail to be totally honest with the patient for fear of upsetting them. During the consultation, it transpired that Mr Brown had other serious illnesses and was being managed by other clinicians. Seemingly, previous communications with these clinicians had left Mr Brown and his family unenlightened about his prognosis and his future prospects. In hindsight, the family would have appreciated total honesty sooner, since this would have allowed them to make realistic decisions.

After fully assessing Mr Brown's case (and in light of this disclosure) the doctor decided to be totally honest with Mr Brown and his family regarding his current situation and the choices available to him. Explanations were empathetic and sensitive to Mr Brown's and his family's feelings ( Hanratty et al, 2012 ; Evans, 2017 ). While the news was not entirely unexpected, Mr Brown and his family appreciated the consultant's candour. In this instance, the consultant had respected Mr Brown's entitlement to total honesty. By receiving all the facts, and the appropriate reassurance and support from the UCNS, Mr Brown could now consider his options and, with his family's support, proceed to put his affairs in order.

Management and treatment of cancer

The management and treatment of cancer is determined by several factors. These include: the grade and stage of the individual's disease—whether the disease is low-grade/low-risk, intermediate-grade/intermediate-risk, or high-grade/high-risk. For some low-grade/low-risk disease, the recommended treatment of choice is surgery alone. However, in certain cases, further review of the staging and histology might reveal features of cancer within the sample that are at a high-risk of local recurrence, necessitating additional treatment intervention, ie chemotherapy or radiotherapy, to minimise this threat.

Following the primary treatment intervention (ie surgery), for low-risk/low-grade disease, the risk of local recurrence is usually low, as is the need for additional treatment intervention (chemotherapy or radiotherapy). Nonetheless, local recurrence is still a possibility. A failure to make the patient aware of this possibility creates a lack of trust and a false sense of hope ( Bumb et al, 2017 ), and evokes unnecessary emotional distress for the patient, their families and carers ( McClain, 2012 ).

As previously explained, the term ‘fully informed’ relates to a patient's entitlement to all information relevant to their situation and needs (including those about the actual and potential risks) ( McClain 2012 ). Informed knowledge is power, thus honesty is imperative ( Evans, 2017 ). The following case studies highlight the consequence of failing to fully inform patients about risks and diagnosis.

Case study 3. Consequences of not being fully informed

Mr White, aged 36, had been diagnosed with a low-grade/low-risk cancer. After the initial diagnosis was explained, Mr White was explicitly told by the doctor that after surgery he would not require any additional treatment. However, a subsequent review of his staging and histology revealed features of cancer within the sample that were at a high risk of local recurrence. Therefore the decision was made to offer Mr White additional treatment with radiotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence down the line. Understandably, this news and the ensuing emotional impact—fear, anxiety and distress—was significant for Mr White. The author contends that, to avoid inciting these emotions, Mr White should have been fully informed, at the initial diagnosis, of the potential risks that further treatment might be necessary, no matter how unlikely these risks were perceived to be. Having observed the emotional impact on Mr White, and other similar cases in local practice, the author proposed that, when delivering a cancer diagnosis, consideration must be given not only to the physical, but also the emotional/psychological impact of the diagnosis on the individuals concerned and all risks, even those deemed small, discussed.

The following case study illustrates how a lack of honesty can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the messages relayed ( McClain, 2012 ; Bramhall, 2014 ) and, accordingly, raises questions regarding the patient's care.

Case study 4. Consequences of ‘sugar-coating’ a diagnosis

Mrs Black, aged 78, had been diagnosed with a low-grade/low-risk bladder cancer, for which the recommended treatment is a course of six doses of intravesical chemotherapy (mitomycin). In providing Mrs Black with the diagnosis, the doctor had failed to clarify that the term ‘bladder polyp/wort’ in fact meant cancer. It is evident to the UCNS that the doctor's intention was to reduce the impact of the news for Mrs Black. However, if a cancer diagnosis is not clearly explained at the outset ( Evans, 2017 ), then, as the UCNS's personal observations in practice have shown, the offer of subsequent cancer treatments will raise questions. In a follow-up meeting with the UCNS, Mrs Black queried why she was having a cancer treatment, when a cancer diagnosis had not been clearly given ( Bumb et al, 2017 ). In this instance, Mrs Black's query placed the UCNS in an uncomfortable position, but one in which she ultimately had to be honest in her response.

Despite the physician's good intentions, a lack of honesty or in this case ‘sugar-coating’ the truth was an infringement of Mrs Black's right to receive full and honest information regarding her diagnosis and treatments and impacted her ability to make clear decisions regarding her care ( McClain, 2012 ; Ali, 2017 ; Bumb et al, 2017 ).

Scenario: communicating in teams

In the UCNS's experience, effective communication is crucial when communicating in teams. The UCNS's observations in practice evoked reflection on past experiences of poor communication and its ensuing impact on her feelings, including hurt and, to some extent, a degree of anger.

Seemingly, poor communication is ingrained in all areas of practice and is highly evident in teams ( Doyle, 2019 ). The ability to communicate effectively is essential to team cohesiveness. One of the chief requirement is to facilitate an environment in which individuals can grow and excel, thus good/effective communication is vital. As previously stated, the tone of voice and actual words spoken are important ( Bramhall, 2014 ; Evans, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). A tone that is respectful and conducive to elevating the individual's self-esteem and morale, ultimately increases self-worth and confidence. Conversely, a patronising attitude—a tone of voice and words spoken that imply sarcasm and disrespect—can, and often does, result in hurt feelings and a significant loss of confidence ( Doyle, 2019 ). Some senior professionals clearly believe in a hierarchy of entitlement to respect in the way that individuals communicate with other team members. A patronising tone of voice and words that imply sarcasm and disrespect impact significantly on individual team members' morale, self-esteem, self-worth, confidence and professional standing. This can lead to disharmony within the clinical environment. This could be communication between a consultant and a junior doctor, or a junior doctor and senior nurse, for example.

As health professionals, admittedly, we could all attest to poor communication at some point in our careers. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to work and communicate effectively with other team members ( Ali, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). The objective here is in facilitating a happy and functional team, one that demonstrates professionalism and competency in providing the care necessary to improving patients' experiences and outcomes ( Ali, 2017 ; Doyle, 2019 ). Securing improvements necessitates the health professional reflecting on their communication skills, acknowledging their limitations and initiating steps to address these ( Barber, 2016 ).

These case studies and scenario provide an insight into the UCNS's observations and reflections on her area of clinical practice and highlight the importance of effective communication. Acknowledgement of the inherent challenges within the communication process are clearly explained, with consideration given to the actual and potential impact in terms of patient, health professionals and clinical practice outcomes ( Oelofsen, 2012 ; RCN, 2019 ).

Communicating effectively is a key interpersonal skill that is fundamental to success in many aspects of life, but seemingly few people, including health professionals, have mastered the skill of truly effective communication. There are evident pitfalls that could lead to patient care being compromised as a result of poor communication between health professionals. The UCNS's role in delivering bad news and supporting patients involves ensuring that patients are adequately informed to enable them to take control of their individual situation and, accordingly, that they are able to make the appropriate choices and decisions for their respective needs. Poor communication within teams can affect patient care and staff morale, and learning how to communicate more effectively is beneficial in terms of improving staff interactions with each other. Essentially, communicating effectively is everyone's responsibility; hence, all health professionals should look at the way they interact and communicate with each other and take the necessary steps to improve this extremely important activity.

  • The cancer clinical nurse specialist (CNS) role is pivotal when patients receive bad news. It is crucial not only to the individual's understanding of the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options, but also to the provision of appropriate support following the bad news and countering the ensuing impact of the news on the patient
  • Reflection is a powerful tool, one that enables nurses to examine their practice, identifying salient issues and initiate change/improvements
  • Communicating effectively is a key interpersonal skill that is fundamental to success in many aspects of life—few people (in this context health professionals) have mastered the skill of truly effective communication
  • Poor communication has implications for the patient, health professional and the health organisation

CPD reflective questions

  • Reflection on practice is a key skill for nurses that enables them to identify salient issues and initiate actions to address these. How well do you think you reflect in practice, and does this provide the insight you seek?
  • Effective communication is an important interpersonal skill. How well do you communicate with patients and colleagues in your area of practice? Reflect on any situations that you find difficult
  • The issue of poor communication within teams and its impact on team members has been highlighted in this article. Have you observed poor communication within your team or within your area of practice? If so, how could this be improved?


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However good you think your listening skills are, the only person who can tell you if you have understood correctly or not is the speaker.  Therefore, as an extension of good listening skills, you need to develop the ability to reflect words and feelings and to clarify that you have understood them correctly. 

It is often important that you and the speaker agree that what you understand is a true representation of what was meant to be said.

As well as understanding and reflecting the verbal messages of the speaker it is important to try to understand the emotions - this page explains how to use reflection effectively to help you build greater understanding of not only what is being said but the content, feeling and meaning of messages.

What is Reflecting?

Reflecting is the process of paraphrasing and restating both the feelings and words of the speaker.  The purposes of reflecting are:

  • To allow the speaker to 'hear' their own thoughts and to focus on what they say and feel.
  • To show the speaker that you are trying to perceive the world as they see it and that you are doing your best to understand their messages.
  • To encourage them to continue talking.

Reflecting does not involve you asking questions, introducing a new topic or leading the conversation in another direction. Speakers are helped through reflecting as it not only allows them to feel understood, but it also gives them the opportunity to focus their ideas. This in turn helps them to direct their thoughts and further encourages them to continue speaking.

Two Main Techniques of Reflecting:

Mirroring is a simple form of reflecting and involves repeating almost exactly what the speaker says.

Mirroring should be short and simple.  It is usually enough to just repeat key words or the last few words spoken. This shows you are trying to understand the speakers terms of reference and acts as a prompt for him or her to continue. Be aware not to over mirror as this can become irritating and therefore a distraction from the message.


Paraphrasing involves using other words to reflect what the speaker has said. Paraphrasing shows not only that you are listening, but that you are attempting to understand what the speaker is saying.

It is often the case that people 'hear what they expect to hear' due to assumptions, stereotyping or prejudices. When paraphrasing, it is of utmost importance that you do not introduce your own ideas or question the speakers thoughts, feelings or actions. Your responses should be non-directive and non-judgemental.

It is very difficult to resist the temptation to ask questions and when this technique is first used, reflecting can seem very stilted and unnatural. You need to practice this skill in order to feel comfortable.

Reflecting Content, Feeling and Meaning

The most immediate part of a speaker's message is the content, in other words those aspects dealing with information, actions, events and experience, as verbalised by them.

Reflecting content helps to give focus to the situation but, at the same time, it is also essential to reflect the feelings and emotions expressed in order to more fully understand the message.

This helps the speaker to own and accept their own feelings, for quite often a speaker may talk about them as though they belong to someone else, for example using “you feel guilty” rather than “I feel guilty.”

A skilled listener will be able to reflect a speaker's feelings from body cues (non-verbal) as well as verbal messages. It is sometimes not appropriate to ask such direct questions as “How does that make you feel?”  Strong emotions such as love and hate are easy to identify, whereas feelings such as affection, guilt and confusion are much more subtle.  The listener must have the ability to identify such feelings both from the words and the non-verbal cues, for example body language, tone of voice, etc.

As well as considering which emotions the speaker is feeling, the listener needs to reflect the degree of intensity of these emotions.  For example:

Reflecting needs to combine content and feeling to truly reflect the meaning of what the speaker has said.  For example:

“ I just don't understand my boss.  One minute he says one thing and the next minute he says the opposite. ”
“ You feel very confused by him? ”

Reflecting meaning allows the listener to reflect the speaker's experiences and emotional response to those experiences.  It links the content and feeling components of what the speaker has said.

You may also be interested in our pages: What is Empathy? and Understanding Others .

Guidelines for Reflecting

  • Be natural.
  • Listen for the basic message - consider the content, feeling and meaning expressed by the speaker.
  • Restate what you have been told in simple terms.
  • When restating, look for non-verbal as well as verbal cues that confirm or deny the accuracy of your paraphrasing.  (Note that some speakers may pretend you have got it right because they feel unable to assert themselves and disagree with you.)
  • Do not question the speaker unnecessarily.
  • Do not add to the speaker's meaning.
  • Do not take the speaker's topic in a new direction.
  • Always be non-directive and non-judgemental.

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The Journey to Mastery: How Self Reflection Can Improve Communication

Implement these best practices before and after both high-stakes and everyday communication to improve your effectiveness.

February 27, 2020

What does it mean to truly master communication? How can we speak and write for the most impact?

In this podcast episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart , Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturers JD Schramm and Matt Abrahams discuss how to use self-reflection for self-improvement. They also offer methods for preparing for a high stakes situation such as a pitch meeting or an everyday interaction like sending an email.

Think Fast, Talk Smart is a podcast produced by Stanford Graduate School of Business and hosted by Matt Abrahams. Each episode provides concrete, easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help you hone and enhance your communication.

Full Transcript

Matt Abrahams : With dedicated practice, self-reflection, along with a little guidance, we can all hone and improve our communication skills.

Today we will focus on the idea of communication mastery with my friend, colleague, and mentor, JD Schramm, who in addition to lecturing in Strategic Communication at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, was recently named the Director of the King Global Leadership Program for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford. Welcome, JD.

How do you define mastery?

JD Schramm : Well, thanks Matt, and thanks for having me here to have this conversation today. I love the definition of mastery that Dan Pink gives in his book Drive. Mastery is getting better and better at something that Matters. For you, for me, from any leaders that we have the privilege of working with, communication is something that matters. And you cannot reach perfection in communication. No matter how great the document is, how great the speech is, how concise the report is, you still could always make it just a little bit better. And so we look at mastery as being an aspiration, I get closer and closer and closer, but I never get to perfection. And that’s the premise of the book: how can I iterate over time and keep getting better and better and better, knowing that the goal is something I will never fully reach. And that’s part of the process, what we go through. If a leader can be self reflective, and recognize that the growth that they have had over a period of time, it is that process that is really exhilarating. And really encouraging much more than the product of that one talk, or that one deck, or that one letter.

Matt Abrahams : That notion of reflection, self-reflection that you mentioned, I think is so critical to success in any communication. But especially as we strive for mastery. I’m curious if you have any insights and thoughts about adjusting and adapting your communication to the needs of the people you’re speaking to.

JD Schramm : Two thoughts on that. One, I think it’s crucial that leaders deliver the message the audience needs to hear, more than the message the leader wants to share. And so I think to be effective as a leader, we’ve got to be very audience-centric in the way in which we design and deliver communication. And we have to be really careful. As we’re reading an audience, we could misinterpret something. We could get something wrong. So in the design of the communication, I have to really think about my audience a lot. In the delivery, I want to be sensitive to the audience. But I also wanna acknowledge I don’t have all the information. So, if I’m gonna invent or interpret what’s going on for somebody, interpret something that’s going to support me. And encouraged me, like their intent on what I’m saying, rather than assuming they’re bored by what I’m saying.

Matt Abrahams : I really liked that distinction of what you do going into the creation of the content being in service of the audience. But then in the moment of delivery, it’s a different perspective. I wanna get back to this notion of design, because we’ve talked a bit about designing messages for audiences. But one thing I appreciate so much about the work you do is you really spend time championing the establishment of what I’ll call a positive communication culture within an organization. Can you share a few examples that you think highlight best practices. Or perhaps practices to be avoided as people progress towards their own communication mastery?

JD Schramm : I love that question, Matt. So there’s a section in the book that is all about communicating from a particular perspective, or point of view, or orientation. And the groups that I chose to highlight in there, communicating as an LGBTQ leader, as a member of the gay community, I’ve done a lot of work in that. And so there’s a section on what’s distinct about being an out LGBT leader. There’s a section, honed especially from the work of Allison Kluger and Stephanie Solari on executive presence for women. And what are the best resources out there. What are some of the resources out there to avoid that are not what we would want. But in that section, I also have communicating as a military veteran. And through both the Ignite program here and the BreakLine program, we’ve been able to work with veterans. Who are going from a life of military service to a career in the civilian ranks. And many of the veterans who are in the Ignite program here were very generous with me as I wrote that and researched that. And came up with tips and stories about what that transition is like. And I don’t know that there are very many resources out there that look at that slice of communication, whether it’s somebody who’s been marginalized, or somebody who has had a distinct service experience. And how can I approach mastery when I’ve got this experience, which may be an asset or maybe a liability. But I just have to acknowledge that’s what I’m coming into the conversation with. And those stories were awesome to get to collect. And then to share back out to the men and women in the military who fed into that and have them respond to it. They were grateful to see something codified in one place.

Matt Abrahams : It’s exciting to me to know that your book not only will give general guidelines and advice, but also targets very specific experiences people have, and how they themselves then can work on their own personal mastery. Are there any specific tools and exercises you recommend people try as they journey towards communication mastery?

JD Schramm : There are several. Let me limit it to just two, and this again goes back to the concept of iteration, getting better and better at something. We include in the book and Kara Levy, who’s a communication coach here at the GSB was my co-author on this. We include a lot of examples of how to self-edit your writing. It is always useful for me to hand over an email or a report to somebody else to copy edit or be check for me. Does this hit the right tone? Is this the right level of detail for this audience? But how can I do that when I don’t have somebody to turn the document over to? Similarly, in the oral communication, being able to use our smartphones effectively to record our side of a conversation and analyze it later. To be able to hand our phone to somebody in a business meeting. And say, when I do my pitch to senior management, could you just subtly capture it on video. Or even just on audio that is completely unobtrusive in a meeting? Then I can go back. I can hear exactly what I said. I can look at the fillers. I can look at the uptalk. I can look at the long-winded sentences, or where did the questions come. And being able to use just simple tools like that in small ways, we get better and better at what we’re doing. It doesn’t have to be hiring a coach, and doing hours of rehearsal to get ready for a TED talk. It can literally be something as simple as reviewing a document after I’ve written it or audio recording a conversation that I had, and then analyzing my side of it.

Matt Abrahams : We end every one of these podcasts with three questions that I ask everybody and I’d love for you to share your answers to these three. So the first question is, if you were to capture the best communication advice you ever received as a five-to-seven-word presentation slide title, what would it be?

JD Schramm : You cannot not communicate. Regardless, I was trying to get into the five-to-seven range, so I added regardless.

No, no matter what I do, I communicate something. Whether I write an email and I sit back, and wait for a day. Whether I speak up in a meeting, or I remain silent. Whether I sigh, or I smile, you cannot not communicate. No matter what you do, you’re communicating something. So let’s take some ownership for the communication you want out there, rather than have it be just by default, what you’re doing.

Matt Abrahams : I liked how you turned a double negative into a positive bit of advice. That was cool.

Matt Abrahams : Who is a communicator that you admire, and why?

JD Schramm : I’ve gotta go to the queen, Oprah Winfrey. Her ability to tell stories that make a point, that draw you in. I’ve gotten to see her present in person twice. I spoke at a conference that she was one of the keynotes. And being able to hear her in person describe and inspire people to be their best selves. Hands down, I just think she is top of her game. And for the audience listening, I think her Golden Globe acceptance speech of the Lifetime Achievement Award two years ago. Brilliant storytelling, brilliant arc, great use of mantra, just across the board in everything she did, very effective.

Matt Abrahams : I 100% agree. That particular speech was phenomenal. Third question, what are the first three ingredients that go into a successful communication recipe?

JD Schramm : I’m going to fall back to something I teach in almost every class and every workshop, audience, intent and message. Mary Munter and Lynn Russell several years ago created the aim model. Who is your audience? I don’t know who I’m writing or speaking to. What is my intent? What do I want them to do with that after they receive it? And only once I know audience intent can I then create the message. The biggest mistake that leaders make today is they jump immediately to message without slowing down to think about who really needs to hear this. And when they hear it or read it, what’s the action I need them to take? So the three answers to me are audience, intent, and message.

Matt Abrahams : What a wonderful way to wrap up a conversation about mastery, and we all need to slow down. And think about in a very methodical, appropriate way, how we develop our communication skills written or spoken. And you’ve given us great insight In our conversation, and I and I hope everyone else looks forward to your book to give us even more information. Thank you so much for being an inspiration to me, and everybody else.

JD Schramm : Thank you, Matt. It was a privilege to get to be here. Thanks for doing the podcast.

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom .

Explore More

Lose yourself: the secret to finding flow and being fully present, speak your truth: why authenticity leads to better communication, when words aren’t enough: how to excel at nonverbal communication, editor’s picks.

reflection essay on effective communication

February 14, 2020 How to Make Complex Ideas More Accessible In this podcast episode, we explore techniques for presenting complicated information so your audience can more easily understand.

January 31, 2020 Communicating Our Multiple Selves: How to Manage Your Reputation Learn how to shape the way others see you through your verbal and nonverbal communication in this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart.

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Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Essay

Introduction, description, action plan, reflective conclusion.

Communication is a fundamental element in nursing practice. This element can possibly determine patients’ satisfaction and even the outcomes of their treatment (Lotfi et al., 2019). The situation described in the paper will exemplify the potential role of communication, which is why it will serve as a Gibbs Reflective Cycle nursing example. The cycle will help to assess the situation and extract lessons from it.

The model is a widely-recognized and crucial learning instrument, allowing individuals to extract lessons from life experiences. The pattern helps one to consider previous experiences, reevaluate them in the light of new knowledge, and implement the freshly obtained insight to improve future practice (Markkanen et al., 2020). The cycle is composed of six stages (description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan), on which the reflection regarding the personal experience will be based (Markkanen et al., 2020). The paper’s principal objective is to outline a challenging situation from personal practice using Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle. The problematic situation is an encounter with a patient suffering from an infected diabetic foot ulcer and in need of amputation. Overall, the paper aims to critically analyze the situation and transform it into a learning opportunity useful in improving my future practice as a wound care specialist.

The situation concerns a 40-year-old patient with diabetes and an infected foot ulcer who was admitted to the hospital where I was working at the moment. The patient had a long history of diabetes, from which he suffered since he was ten years old. A multidisciplinary team examined the patient and established that he needed an amputation. As I approached the patient to get a consent form, I noticed that he looked upset. Given the described situation, it might be suggested that a communication dilemma here is of ethical character, in particular – it is the delivery of the bad news. By applying the model, the provided Gibbs Reflective Cycle example communication will demonstrate what actions were undertaken to resolve the mentioned dilemma.

The incident that will be analyzed is an outstanding Gibbs Reflective Cycle nursing example, which happened several years ago when I began working as a wound care nurse. A 40-year-old diabetic patient with an infected diabetic foot ulcer was admitted to the hospital. He had a long history of diabetes, suffering from the condition for three decades. A multidisciplinary team examined and communicated with the patient; it was established that he needed a below-knee amputation. The group stated their decision and left, and I had to retrieve the consent form. While retrieving the record, I perceived that the patient looked exceedingly sorrowful and depressed. Nevertheless, I did not know whether I needed to intervene in the situation and left.

Although I worked for many years in nursing before the incident, I became a certified wound care nurse relatively recently before it took place. At the moment, I saw the situation as irreparable, so I was not sure whether I should have tried to console the patient. I felt anxious and, to an extent, powerless when faced with the man’s grief. I thought that words or an empathic response would not be able to mitigate his sadness. Additionally, I was also somewhat startled that the multidisciplinary team did not handle the conversation more delicately and left rather abruptly. Overall, I did not feel confident enough to handle the situation and was unsure whether my intervention would be appropriate.

I frequently returned to the incident, trying to understand what should have been done instead. Retrospectively, I believe that it helped me to reevaluate the role of therapeutic communication in my profession. Prior to the incident, I did not perceive preoccupation with patients’ emotional well-being as my duty as a nurse. I believed that administering medications and treatment, performing tests, recording medical history, educating patients, et cetera, was all that was required of me. Nevertheless, I did not fulfill another vital function in the described situation. To understand that a holistic approach to care presupposes therapeutic communication, I had to experience the case (2). As a nurse, showing empathy and consoling patients is a critical function that is sometimes overlooked. Furthermore, the incident demonstrates a lack of cooperation between the nursing staff and the team since communication was needed to ensure that the emotional impact of amputation on the patient was alleviated.

Some medical professionals find the process of delivering bad news challenging and feel psychologically unprepared (Van Keer et al., 2019). A lack of skills in this aspect can negatively affect patients: they might undergo extra stress, have lower psychological adjustment, and have worse health outcomes (Biazar et al., 2019; Matthews et al., 2019). Furthermore, the way the news is handled can impact patients’ understanding of the situation and adherence to treatment (Galehdar et al., 2020). Given the adverse effects, multiple protocols and approaches to communicating bad news and dealing with its consequences were developed. This situation is analyzed in detail in a ‘Gibbs Reflective Cycle example essay pdf’ that focuses on these communication challenges in healthcare.

In the patient- and family-centered approach, the process occurs based on the patient’s needs as well as their cultural and religious beliefs (Hagqvist et al., 2020). Upon communicating the information, a medical professional is supposed to assess their understanding and show empathy (Hagqvist et al., 2020). In an emotion-centered approach, a medical professional is supposed to embrace the sadness of the situation and build the patient-medical professional interaction on empathy and sympathy (Hagqvist et al., 2020). Yet, the patient- and family-centered approach seems more effective since excessive empathy can be counter-productive and impede information exchange.

Managing patients’ reactions is the final and particularly vital step in communicating bad news. Nurses are commonly involved in handling emotional responses, which entails several responsibilities:

  • Additional emotional support should be given to those who cannot accept the information (Galehdar et al., 2020).
  • Nurses can find more related information and share it with patients (Rathnayake et al., 2021).
  • Nurses are supposed to improve the situation if bad news has been delivered poorly (Dehghani et al., 2020).

In the case of amputation, heightened emotional attention should be given to the patient, as limb loss is a life-altering procedure. Such patients commonly undergo the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and are prone to developing anxiety, depression, and body image issues (Madsen et al., 2023). Hence, upon delivering the news regarding amputation, it is vital to provide a patient with community resources for dealing with emotional and psychological implications.

Currently, I understand more in-depth that delivering and handling the consequences of bad news is an inescapable reality of the nursing profession. The incident allowed me to notice the aspects of my professional development that necessitate more attention and improvement. Hence, I strive to be more empathetic in my clinical practice and not undervalue the role of patient-nurse communication. I attempt to provide psychological and emotional support to patients and console them to the best of my ability and knowledge, especially if a patient has just received traumatic news. Due to the incident, I comprehended better that a patient’s emotional well-being can be dependent on my actions. I also stopped presuming that other medical professionals provide the necessary emotional support. Moreover, I understand that I am not powerless when faced with a patient’s sorrow.

Consequently, I will not neglect the importance of patient-nurse communication for patients’ health outcomes and mental well-being. I will offer hope where it is appropriate and encourage and validate patients’ emotions to help them deal with traumatic information (Font-Jimenez et al., 2019). In the future, I will use verbal and non-verbal communication clues to show that I care and, generally, be more empathetic (Font-Jimenez et al., 2019). I will not prevent my insecurities from fulfilling my nursing duties, nor will I allow the feeling of hopelessness to affect my clinical practice. Furthermore, I will rely on evidence-based approaches to handle bad news effectively and facilitate its delivery to patients.

Additionally, I will be more mindful in my nursing practice. Gibb’s reflective cycle will assist me in attaining this objective. I will continue to apply it to the situations occurring at work in order to think systematically as well as analyze and evaluate them. Furthermore, Gibb’s reflective cycle will enhance my ability to learn from my experience. The model will help me to refine my communication skills and make patient-nurse interactions more intuitive and productive (Markkanen et al., 2020).

The situation allowed me to understand the actual value of therapeutic communication in nursing. Now, I understand the need to exercise it in my clinical practice, which is a realization that I further explored in a ‘Gibbs Reflective Cycle example essay pdf.’ Learning to provide emotional support and manage the consequences of bad news is an essential quality for nurses, influencing health outcomes and satisfaction from a visit. Additionally, I become more conscious of my own emotions and the way they can prevent me from acting in a patient’s best interests. Overall, the proper tactics of delivering bad news and assisting patients in handling them became a higher priority in my clinical practice.

To conclude, this reflection featured an episode from my practice in which I analyzed a communication situation using Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle. It showed that I need to concentrate on my abilities to resolve the communication dilemma of the delivery of bad news. The above discussion also demonstrated how the implementation of an appropriate and significant evidence-based model – Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle – may result in better patient outcomes.

Biazar, G., Delpasand, K., Farzi, F., Sedighinejad, A., Mirmansouri, A., & Atrkarroushan, Z. (2019). Breaking bad news: A valid concern among clinicians . Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 14 (3), 198–202. Web.

Dehghani, F., Barkhordari-Sharifabad, M., Sedaghati-kasbakhi, M., & Fallahzadeh, H. (2020). Effect of palliative care training on perceived self-efficacy of the nurses . BMC Palliative Care, 19 , 63. Web.

Font-Jimenez, I., Ortega-Sanz, L., Acebedo-Uridales, M. S., Aguaron-Garcia, M. J., & de Molina-Fernández, I. (2019). Nurses’ emotions on care relationship: A qualitative study . Journal of Nursing Management, 28 (8), 2247-2256. Web.

Galehdar, N., Kamran, A., Toulabi, T., & Heydari, H. (2020). Exploring nurses’ experiences of psychological distress during care of patients with COVID-19: A qualitative study . BMC Psychiatry, 20 , 489. Web.

Hagqvist, P., Oikarainen, A., Tuomikoski, A.-M., Juntunen, J., & Mikkonen, K. (2020). Clinical mentors’ experiences of their intercultural communication competence in mentoring culturally and linguistically diverse nursing students: A qualitative study . Nurse Education Today, 87 , 104348. Web.

Lotfi, M., Zamanzadeh, V., Valizadeh, L., & Khajehgoodari, M. (2019). Assessment of nurse–patient communication and patient satisfaction from nursing care . Nursing Open, 6 (3), 1189-1196. Web.

Madsen, R., Larsen, P., Carlsen, A. M. F., & Marcussen, J. (2023). Nursing care and nurses’ understandings of grief and bereavement among patients and families during cancer illness and death – A scoping review . European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 62 , 102260. Web.

Markkanen, P., Välimäki, M., Anttila, M., & Kuuskorpi, M. (2020). A reflective cycle: Understanding challenging situations in a school setting . Educational Research, 62 (1), 46-62. Web.

Matthews, T., Baken, D., Ross, K., Ogilvie, E., & Kent, L. (2019). The experiences of patients and their family members when receiving bad news about cancer: A qualitative meta-synthesis . Psycho-Oncology, 28 (12), 2286-2294. Web.

Rathnayake, S., Dasanayake, D., Maithreepala, S. D., Ekanayake, R., & Basnayake, P. L. (2021). Nurses’ perspectives of taking care of patients with Coronavirus disease 2019: A phenomenological study. PLoS ONE, 16 (9), e0257064

Van Keer, R. L., Deschepper, R., Huyghens, L., & Bilsen, J. (2019). Challenges in delivering bad news in a multi-ethnic intensive care unit: An ethnographic study . Patient Education and Counseling, 102 (12), 2199-2207. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2024, January 22). Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle.

"Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle." IvyPanda , 22 Jan. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) 'Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle'. 22 January.

IvyPanda . 2024. "Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle." January 22, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle." January 22, 2024.


IvyPanda . "Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle." January 22, 2024.

  • "The Epic of Gilgamesh" by Ryan Gibbs
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  • Medical Ethics of Amputation
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  • Nurse Leader and Abbott Northwestern Hospital
  • Mindfulness Meditation Program and Nursing Outcomes
  • Issue of Nursing Turnover
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection: Nurse-Sensitive Indicators

reflection essay on effective communication

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The Art of Effective Communication

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

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  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course.

A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course. Reflective writing assignments can be in the form of a single paper, essays, portfolios, journals, diaries, or blogs. In some cases, your professor may include a reflective writing assignment as a way to obtain student feedback that helps improve the course, either in the moment or for when the class is taught again.

How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8.

Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments

As the term implies, a reflective paper involves looking inward at oneself in contemplating and bringing meaning to the relationship between course content and the acquisition of new knowledge . Educational research [Bolton, 2010; Ryan, 2011; Tsingos-Lucas et al., 2017] demonstrates that assigning reflective writing tasks enhances learning because it challenges students to confront their own assumptions, biases, and belief systems around what is being taught in class and, in so doing, stimulate student’s decisions, actions, attitudes, and understanding about themselves as learners and in relation to having mastery over their learning. Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers.

Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously. In no particular order, here are some of reasons why professors assign reflection papers:

  • Enhances learning from previous knowledge and experience in order to improve future decision-making and reasoning in practice . Reflective writing in the applied social sciences enhances decision-making skills and academic performance in ways that can inform professional practice. The act of reflective writing creates self-awareness and understanding of others. This is particularly important in clinical and service-oriented professional settings.
  • Allows students to make sense of classroom content and overall learning experiences in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the content and classroom experiences . Reflective writing places you within the course content in ways that can deepen your understanding of the material. Because reflective thinking can help reveal hidden biases, it can help you critically interrogate moments when you do not like or agree with discussions, readings, or other aspects of the course.
  • Increases awareness of one’s cognitive abilities and the evidence for these attributes . Reflective writing can break down personal doubts about yourself as a learner and highlight specific abilities that may have been hidden or suppressed due to prior assumptions about the strength of your academic abilities [e.g., reading comprehension; problem-solving skills]. Reflective writing, therefore, can have a positive affective [i.e., emotional] impact on your sense of self-worth.
  • Applying theoretical knowledge and frameworks to real experiences . Reflective writing can help build a bridge of relevancy between theoretical knowledge and the real world. In so doing, this form of writing can lead to a better understanding of underlying theories and their analytical properties applied to professional practice.
  • Reveals shortcomings that the reader will identify . Evidence suggests that reflective writing can uncover your own shortcomings as a learner, thereby, creating opportunities to anticipate the responses of your professor may have about the quality of your coursework. This can be particularly productive if the reflective paper is written before final submission of an assignment.
  • Helps students identify their tacit [a.k.a., implicit] knowledge and possible gaps in that knowledge . Tacit knowledge refers to ways of knowing rooted in lived experience, insight, and intuition rather than formal, codified, categorical, or explicit knowledge. In so doing, reflective writing can stimulate students to question their beliefs about a research problem or an element of the course content beyond positivist modes of understanding and representation.
  • Encourages students to actively monitor their learning processes over a period of time . On-going reflective writing in journals or blogs, for example, can help you maintain or adapt learning strategies in other contexts. The regular, purposeful act of reflection can facilitate continuous deep thinking about the course content as it evolves and changes throughout the term. This, in turn, can increase your overall confidence as a learner.
  • Relates a student’s personal experience to a wider perspective . Reflection papers can help you see the big picture associated with the content of a course by forcing you to think about the connections between scholarly content and your lived experiences outside of school. It can provide a macro-level understanding of one’s own experiences in relation to the specifics of what is being taught.
  • If reflective writing is shared, students can exchange stories about their learning experiences, thereby, creating an opportunity to reevaluate their original assumptions or perspectives . In most cases, reflective writing is only viewed by your professor in order to ensure candid feedback from students. However, occasionally, reflective writing is shared and openly discussed in class. During these discussions, new or different perspectives and alternative approaches to solving problems can be generated that would otherwise be hidden. Sharing student's reflections can also reveal collective patterns of thought and emotions about a particular element of the course.

Bolton, Gillie. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development . London: Sage, 2010; Chang, Bo. "Reflection in Learning." Online Learning 23 (2019), 95-110; Cavilla, Derek. "The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and Motivation." Sage Open 7 (July-September 2017): 1–13; Culbert, Patrick. “Better Teaching? You Can Write On It “ Liberal Education (February 2022); McCabe, Gavin and Tobias Thejll-Madsen. The Reflection Toolkit . University of Edinburgh; The Purpose of Reflection . Introductory Composition at Purdue University; Practice-based and Reflective Learning . Study Advice Study Guides, University of Reading; Ryan, Mary. "Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective." Teaching in Higher Education 16 (2011): 99-111; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8; What Benefits Might Reflective Writing Have for My Students? Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse; Rykkje, Linda. "The Tacit Care Knowledge in Reflective Writing: A Practical Wisdom." International Practice Development Journal 7 (September 2017): Article 5; Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning . Center for Writing, University of Minnesota.

How to Approach Writing a Reflection Paper

Thinking About Reflective Thinking

Educational theorists have developed numerous models of reflective thinking that your professor may use to frame a reflective writing assignment. These models can help you systematically interpret your learning experiences, thereby ensuring that you ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of what should be covered. A model can also represent the overall structure of a reflective paper. Each model establishes a different approach to reflection and will require you to think about your writing differently. If you are unclear how to fit your writing within a particular reflective model, seek clarification from your professor. There are generally two types of reflective writing assignments, each approached in slightly different ways.

1.  Reflective Thinking about Course Readings

This type of reflective writing focuses on thoughtfully thinking about the course readings that underpin how most students acquire new knowledge and understanding about the subject of a course. Reflecting on course readings is often assigned in freshmen-level, interdisciplinary courses where the required readings examine topics viewed from multiple perspectives and, as such, provide different ways of analyzing a topic, issue, event, or phenomenon. The purpose of reflective thinking about course readings in the social and behavioral sciences is to elicit your opinions, beliefs, and feelings about the research and its significance. This type of writing can provide an opportunity to break down key assumptions you may have and, in so doing, reveal potential biases in how you interpret the scholarship.

If you are assigned to reflect on course readings, consider the following methods of analysis as prompts that can help you get started :

  • Examine carefully the main introductory elements of the reading, including the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework being used to test assumptions, and the research questions being addressed. Think about what ideas stood out to you. Why did they? Were these ideas new to you or familiar in some way based on your own lived experiences or prior knowledge?
  • Develop your ideas around the readings by asking yourself, what do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge about this topic come from? What are the observations or experiences in my life that influence my understanding of the topic? Do I agree or disagree with the main arguments, recommended course of actions, or conclusions made by the author(s)? Why do I feel this way and what is the basis of these feelings?
  • Make connections between the text and your own beliefs, opinions, or feelings by considering questions like, how do the readings reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How the readings challenge these ideas or assumptions? How does this text help me to better understand this topic or research in ways that motivate me to learn more about this area of study?

2.  Reflective Thinking about Course Experiences

This type of reflective writing asks you to critically reflect on locating yourself at the conceptual intersection of theory and practice. The purpose of experiential reflection is to evaluate theories or disciplinary-based analytical models based on your introspective assessment of the relationship between hypothetical thinking and practical reality; it offers a way to consider how your own knowledge and skills fit within professional practice. This type of writing also provides an opportunity to evaluate your decisions and actions, as well as how you managed your subsequent successes and failures, within a specific theoretical framework. As a result, abstract concepts can crystallize and become more relevant to you when considered within your own experiences. This can help you formulate plans for self-improvement as you learn.

If you are assigned to reflect on your experiences, consider the following questions as prompts to help you get started :

  • Contextualize your reflection in relation to the overarching purpose of the course by asking yourself, what did you hope to learn from this course? What were the learning objectives for the course and how did I fit within each of them? How did these goals relate to the main themes or concepts of the course?
  • Analyze how you experienced the course by asking yourself, what did I learn from this experience? What did I learn about myself? About working in this area of research and study? About how the course relates to my place in society? What assumptions about the course were supported or refuted?
  • Think introspectively about the ways you experienced learning during the course by asking yourself, did your learning experiences align with the goals or concepts of the course? Why or why do you not feel this way? What was successful and why do you believe this? What would you do differently and why is this important? How will you prepare for a future experience in this area of study?

NOTE: If you are assigned to write a journal or other type of on-going reflection exercise, a helpful approach is to reflect on your reflections by re-reading what you have already written. In other words, review your previous entries as a way to contextualize your feelings, opinions, or beliefs regarding your overall learning experiences. Over time, this can also help reveal hidden patterns or themes related to how you processed your learning experiences. Consider concluding your reflective journal with a summary of how you felt about your learning experiences at critical junctures throughout the course, then use these to write about how you grew as a student learner and how the act of reflecting helped you gain new understanding about the subject of the course and its content.

ANOTHER NOTE: Regardless of whether you write a reflection paper or a journal, do not focus your writing on the past. The act of reflection is intended to think introspectively about previous learning experiences. However, reflective thinking should document the ways in which you progressed in obtaining new insights and understandings about your growth as a learner that can be carried forward in subsequent coursework or in future professional practice. Your writing should reflect a furtherance of increasing personal autonomy and confidence gained from understanding more about yourself as a learner.

Structure and Writing Style

There are no strict academic rules for writing a reflective paper. Reflective writing may be assigned in any class taught in the social and behavioral sciences and, therefore, requirements for the assignment can vary depending on disciplinary-based models of inquiry and learning. The organization of content can also depend on what your professor wants you to write about or based on the type of reflective model used to frame the writing assignment. Despite these possible variations, below is a basic approach to organizing and writing a good reflective paper, followed by a list of problems to avoid.


In most cases, it's helpful to begin by thinking about your learning experiences and outline what you want to focus on before you begin to write the paper. This can help you organize your thoughts around what was most important to you and what experiences [good or bad] had the most impact on your learning. As described by the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre, preparing to write a reflective paper involves a process of self-analysis that can help organize your thoughts around significant moments of in-class knowledge discovery.

  • Using a thesis statement as a guide, note what experiences or course content stood out to you , then place these within the context of your observations, reactions, feelings, and opinions. This will help you develop a rough outline of key moments during the course that reflect your growth as a learner. To identify these moments, pose these questions to yourself: What happened? What was my reaction? What were my expectations and how were they different from what transpired? What did I learn?
  • Critically think about your learning experiences and the course content . This will help you develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding about why these moments were significant or relevant to you. Use the ideas you formulated during the first stage of reflecting to help you think through these moments from both an academic and personal perspective. From an academic perspective, contemplate how the experience enhanced your understanding of a concept, theory, or skill. Ask yourself, did the experience confirm my previous understanding or challenge it in some way. As a result, did this highlight strengths or gaps in your current knowledge? From a personal perspective, think introspectively about why these experiences mattered, if previous expectations or assumptions were confirmed or refuted, and if this surprised, confused, or unnerved you in some way.
  • Analyze how these experiences and your reactions to them will shape your future thinking and behavior . Reflection implies looking back, but the most important act of reflective writing is considering how beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and feelings were transformed in ways that better prepare you as a learner in the future. Note how this reflective analysis can lead to actions you will take as a result of your experiences, what you will do differently, and how you will apply what you learned in other courses or in professional practice.

Basic Structure and Writing Style

Reflective Background and Context

The first part of your reflection paper should briefly provide background and context in relation to the content or experiences that stood out to you. Highlight the settings, summarize the key readings, or narrate the experiences in relation to the course objectives. Provide background that sets the stage for your reflection. You do not need to go into great detail, but you should provide enough information for the reader to understand what sources of learning you are writing about [e.g., course readings, field experience, guest lecture, class discussions] and why they were important. This section should end with an explanatory thesis statement that expresses the central ideas of your paper and what you want the readers to know, believe, or understand after they finish reading your paper.

Reflective Interpretation

Drawing from your reflective analysis, this is where you can be personal, critical, and creative in expressing how you felt about the course content and learning experiences and how they influenced or altered your feelings, beliefs, assumptions, or biases about the subject of the course. This section is also where you explore the meaning of these experiences in the context of the course and how you gained an awareness of the connections between these moments and your own prior knowledge.

Guided by your thesis statement, a helpful approach is to interpret your learning throughout the course with a series of specific examples drawn from the course content and your learning experiences. These examples should be arranged in sequential order that illustrate your growth as a learner. Reflecting on each example can be done by: 1)  introducing a theme or moment that was meaningful to you, 2) describing your previous position about the learning moment and what you thought about it, 3) explaining how your perspective was challenged and/or changed and why, and 4) introspectively stating your current or new feelings, opinions, or beliefs about that experience in class.

It is important to include specific examples drawn from the course and placed within the context of your assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. A reflective narrative without specific examples does not provide an effective way for the reader to understand the relationship between the course content and how you grew as a learner.

Reflective Conclusions

The conclusion of your reflective paper should provide a summary of your thoughts, feelings, or opinions regarding what you learned about yourself as a result of taking the course. Here are several ways you can frame your conclusions based on the examples you interpreted and reflected on what they meant to you. Each example would need to be tied to the basic theme [thesis statement] of your reflective background section.

  • Your reflective conclusions can be described in relation to any expectations you had before taking the class [e.g., “I expected the readings to not be relevant to my own experiences growing up in a rural community, but the research actually helped me see that the challenges of developing my identity as a child of immigrants was not that unusual...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can explain how what you learned about yourself will change your actions in the future [e.g., “During a discussion in class about the challenges of helping homeless people, I realized that many of these people hate living on the street but lack the ability to see a way out. This made me realize that I wanted to take more classes in psychology...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can describe major insights you experienced a critical junctures during the course and how these moments enhanced how you see yourself as a student learner [e.g., "The guest speaker from the Head Start program made me realize why I wanted to pursue a career in elementary education..."].
  • Your reflective conclusions can reconfigure or reframe how you will approach professional practice and your understanding of your future career aspirations [e.g.,, "The course changed my perceptions about seeking a career in business finance because it made me realize I want to be more engaged in customer service..."]
  • Your reflective conclusions can explore any learning you derived from the act of reflecting itself [e.g., “Reflecting on the course readings that described how minority students perceive campus activities helped me identify my own biases about the benefits of those activities in acclimating to campus life...”].

NOTE: The length of a reflective paper in the social sciences is usually less than a traditional research paper. However, don’t assume that writing a reflective paper is easier than writing a research paper. A well-conceived critical reflection paper often requires as much time and effort as a research paper because you must purposeful engage in thinking about your learning in ways that you may not be comfortable with or used to. This is particular true while preparing to write because reflective papers are not as structured as a traditional research paper and, therefore, you have to think deliberately about how you want to organize the paper and what elements of the course you want to reflect upon.

ANOTHER NOTE: Do not limit yourself to using only text in reflecting on your learning. If you believe it would be helpful, consider using creative modes of thought or expression such as, illustrations, photographs, or material objects that reflects an experience related to the subject of the course that was important to you [e.g., like a ticket stub to a renowned speaker on campus]. Whatever non-textual element you include, be sure to describe the object's relevance to your personal relationship to the course content.

Problems to Avoid

A reflective paper is not a “mind dump” . Reflective papers document your personal and emotional experiences and, therefore, they do not conform to rigid structures, or schema, to organize information. However, the paper should not be a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness narrative. Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone , and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance.

A reflective paper is not a research paper . If you are asked to reflect on a course reading, the reflection will obviously include some description of the research. However, the goal of reflective writing is not to present extraneous ideas to the reader or to "educate" them about the course. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the learning objectives of the course. Therefore, unlike research papers, you are expected to write from a first person point of view which includes an introspective examination of your own opinions, feelings, and personal assumptions.

A reflection paper is not a book review . Descriptions of the course readings using your own words is not a reflective paper. Reflective writing should focus on how you understood the implications of and were challenged by the course in relation to your own lived experiences or personal assumptions, combined with explanations of how you grew as a student learner based on this internal dialogue. Remember that you are the central object of the paper, not the research materials.

A reflective paper is not an all-inclusive meditation. Do not try to cover everything. The scope of your paper should be well-defined and limited to your specific opinions, feelings, and beliefs about what you determine to be the most significant content of the course and in relation to the learning that took place. Reflections should be detailed enough to covey what you think is important, but your thoughts should be expressed concisely and coherently [as is true for any academic writing assignment].

Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Critical Reflection: Journals, Opinions, & Reactions . University Writing Center, Texas A&M University; Connor-Greene, Patricia A. “Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 27 (2000): 44-46; Good vs. Bad Reflection Papers , Franklin University; Dyment, Janet E. and Timothy S. O’Connell. "The Quality of Reflection in Student Journals: A Review of Limiting and Enabling Factors." Innovative Higher Education 35 (2010): 233-244: How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Amelia TaraJane House. Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas; Ramlal, Alana, and Désirée S. Augustin. “Engaging Students in Reflective Writing: An Action Research Project.” Educational Action Research 28 (2020): 518-533; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; McGuire, Lisa, Kathy Lay, and Jon Peters. “Pedagogy of Reflective Writing in Professional Education.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2009): 93-107; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; How Do I Write Reflectively? Academic Skills Toolkit, University of New South Wales Sydney; Reflective Writing . Skills@Library. University of Leeds; Walling, Anne, Johanna Shapiro, and Terry Ast. “What Makes a Good Reflective Paper?” Family Medicine 45 (2013): 7-12; Williams, Kate, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro. Reflective Writing . 2nd edition. London: Red Globe Press, 2020; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. “Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing.” Higher Education Research and Development (2022): 1-16.

Writing Tip

Focus on Reflecting, Not on Describing

Minimal time and effort should be spent describing the course content you are asked to reflect upon. The purpose of a reflection assignment is to introspectively contemplate your reactions to and feeling about an element of the course. D eflecting the focus away from your own feelings by concentrating on describing the course content can happen particularly if "talking about yourself" [i.e., reflecting] makes you uncomfortable or it is intimidating. However, the intent of reflective writing is to overcome these inhibitions so as to maximize the benefits of introspectively assessing your learning experiences. Keep in mind that, if it is relevant, your feelings of discomfort could be a part of how you critically reflect on any challenges you had during the course [e.g., you realize this discomfort inhibited your willingness to ask questions during class, it fed into your propensity to procrastinate, or it made it difficult participating in groups].

Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas.

Another Writing Tip

Helpful Videos about Reflective Writing

These two short videos succinctly describe how to approach a reflective writing assignment. They are produced by the Academic Skills department at the University of Melbourne and the Skills Team of the University of Hull, respectively.

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The Importance of Self-Reflection: How Looking Inward Can Improve Your Mental Health

Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

reflection essay on effective communication

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program.

reflection essay on effective communication

Sunwoo Jung / Getty Images

Why Is Self-Reflection So Important?

When self-reflection becomes unhealthy, how to practice self-reflection, what to do if self-reflection makes you uncomfortable, incorporating self-reflection into your routine.

How well do you know yourself? Do you think about why you do the things you do? Self-reflection is a skill that can help you understand yourself better.

Self-reflection involves being present with yourself and intentionally focusing your attention inward to examine your thoughts, feelings, actions, and motivations, says Angeleena Francis , LMHC, executive director for AMFM Healthcare.

Active self-reflection can help grow your understanding of who you are , what values you believe in, and why you think and act the way you do, says Kristin Wilson , MA, LPC, CCTP, RYT, chief experience officer for Newport Healthcare.

This article explores the benefits and importance of self-reflection, as well as some strategies to help you practice it and incorporate it into your daily life. We also discuss when self-reflection can become unhealthy and suggest some coping strategies.

Self-reflection is important because it helps you form a self-concept and contributes toward self-development.

Builds Your Self-Concept

Self-reflection is critical because it contributes to your self-concept, which is an important part of your identity.

Your self-concept includes your thoughts about your traits, abilities, beliefs, values, roles, and relationships. It plays an influential role in your mood, judgment, and behavioral patterns.

Reflecting inward allows you to know yourself and continue to get to know yourself as you change and develop as a person, says Francis. It helps you understand and strengthen your self-concept as you evolve with time.

Enables Self-Development

Self-reflection also plays a key role in self-development. “It is a required skill for personal growth ,” says Wilson.

Being able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, or what you did right or wrong, can help you identify areas for growth and improvement, so you can work on them.

For instance, say you gave a presentation at school or work that didn’t go well, despite putting in a lot of work on the project. Spending a little time on self-reflection can help you understand that even though you spent a lot of time working on the project and creating the presentation materials, you didn’t practice giving the presentation. Realizing the problem can help you correct it. So, the next time you have to give a presentation, you can practice it on your colleagues or loved ones first.

Or, say you’ve just broken up with your partner. While it’s easy to blame them for everything that went wrong, self-reflection can help you understand what behaviors of yours contributed to the split. Being mindful of these behaviors can be helpful in other relationships.

Without self-reflection, you would continue to do what you’ve always done and as a result, you may continue to face the same problems you’ve always faced.

Benefits of Self-Reflection

These are some of the benefits of self-reflection, according to the experts:

  • Increased self-awareness: Spending time in self-reflection can help build greater self-awareness , says Wilson. Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. It helps you recognize and understand your own emotions, as well as the impact of your emotions on your thoughts and behaviors.
  • Greater sense of control: Self-reflection involves practicing mindfulness and being present with yourself at the moment. This can help you feel more grounded and in control of yourself, says Francis.
  • Improved communication skills: Self-reflection can help you improve your communication skills, which can benefit your relationships. Understanding what you’re feeling can help you express yourself clearly, honestly, and empathetically.
  • Deeper alignment with core values: Self-reflection can help you understand what you believe in and why. This can help ensure that your words and actions are more aligned with your core values, Wilson explains. It can also help reduce cognitive dissonance , which is the discomfort you may experience when your behavior doesn’t align with your values, says Francis.
  • Better decision-making skills: Self-reflection can help you make better decisions for yourself, says Wilson. Understanding yourself better can help you evaluate all your options and how they will impact you with more clarity. This can help you make sound decisions that you’re more comfortable with, says Francis.
  • Greater accountability: Self-reflection can help you hold yourself accountable to yourself, says Francis. It can help you evaluate your actions and recognize personal responsibility. It can also help you hold yourself accountable for the goals you’re working toward.

Self-reflection is a healthy practice that is important for mental well-being. However, it can become harmful if it turns into rumination, self-criticism, self-judgment, negative self-talk , and comparison to others, says Wilson.

Here’s what that could look like:

  • Rumination: Experiencing excessive and repetitive stressful or negative thoughts. Rumination is often obsessive and interferes with other types of mental activity.
  • Self-judgment: Constantly judging yourself and often finding yourself lacking. 
  • Negative self-talk: Allowing the voice inside your head to discourage you from doing things you want to do. Negative self-talk is often self-defeating.
  • Self-criticism: Constantly criticizing your actions and decisions.
  • Comparison: Endlessly comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior.

Kristin Wilson, LPC, CCTP

Looking inward may activate your inner critic, but true self-reflection comes from a place of neutrality and non-judgment.

When anxious thoughts and feelings come up in self-reflection, Wilson says it’s important to practice self-compassion and redirect your focus to actionable insights that can propel your life forward. “We all have faults and room for improvement. Reflect on the behaviors or actions you want to change and take steps to do so.”

It can help to think of what you would say to a friend in a similar situation. For instance, if your friend said they were worried about the status of their job after they gave a presentation that didn’t go well, you would probably be kind to them, tell them not to worry, and to focus on improving their presentation skills in the future. Apply the same compassion to yourself and focus on what you can control.

If you are unable to calm your mind of racing or negative thoughts, Francis recommends seeking support from a trusted person in your life or a mental health professional. “Patterns of negative self-talk, self-doubt , or criticism should be addressed through professional support, as negative cognitions of oneself can lead to symptoms of depression if not resolved.”

Wilson suggests some strategies that can help you practice self-reflection:

  • Ask yourself open-ended questions: Start off by asking yourself open-ended questions that will prompt self-reflection, such as: “Am I doing what makes me happy?” “Are there things I’d like to improve about myself?” or “What could I have done differently today?” “Am I taking anything or anyone for granted?” Notice what thoughts and feelings arise within you for each question and then begin to think about why. Be curious about yourself and be open to whatever comes up.
  • Keep a journal: Journaling your thoughts and responses to these questions is an excellent vehicle for self-expression. It can be helpful to look back at your responses, read how you handled things in the past, assess the outcome, and look for where you might make changes in the future.
  • Try meditation: Meditation can also be a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal growth. Even if it’s only for five minutes, practice sitting in silence and paying attention to what comes up for you. Notice which thoughts are fleeting and which come up more often.
  • Process major events and emotions: When something happens in your life that makes you feel especially good or bad, take the time to reflect on what occurred, how it made you feel, and either how you can get to that feeling again or what you might do differently the next time. Writing down your thoughts in a journal can help.
  • Make a self-reflection board: Create a self-reflection board of positive attributes that you add to regularly. Celebrate your authentic self and the ways you stay true to who you are. Having a visual representation of self-reflection can be motivating.

You may avoid self-reflection if it brings up difficult emotions and makes you feel uncomfortable, says Francis. She recommends preparing yourself to get comfortable with the uncomfortable before you start.

Think of your time in self-reflection as a safe space within yourself. “Avoid judging yourself while you explore your inner thoughts, feelings, and motives of behavior,” says Francis. Simply notice what comes up and accept it. Instead of focusing on fears, worries, or regrets, try to look for areas of growth and improvement.

“Practice neutrality and self-compassion so that self-reflection is a positive experience that you will want to do regularly,” says Wilson.

Francis suggests some strategies that can help you incorporate self-reflection into your daily routine:

  • Dedicate time to it: it’s important to dedicate time to self-reflection and build it into your routine. Find a slot that works for your schedule—it could be five minutes each morning while drinking coffee or 30 minutes sitting outside in nature once per week.
  • Pick a quiet spot: It can be hard to focus inward if your environment is busy or chaotic. Choose a calm and quiet space that is free of distractions so you can hear your own thoughts.
  • Pay attention to your senses: Pay attention to your senses. Sensory input is an important component of self-awareness.

Nowak A, Vallacher RR, Bartkowski W, Olson L. Integration and expression: The complementary functions of self-reflection . J Pers . 2022;10.1111/jopy.12730. doi:10.1111/jopy.12730

American Psychological Association. Self-concept .

Dishon N, Oldmeadow JA, Critchley C, Kaufman J. The effect of trait self-awareness, self-reflection, and perceptions of choice meaningfulness on indicators of social identity within a decision-making context . Front Psychol . 2017;8:2034. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02034

Drigas AS, Papoutsi C. A new layered model on emotional intelligence . Behav Sci (Basel) . 2018;8(5):45. doi:10.3390/bs8050045

American Psychological Association. Rumination .

By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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The Globalization of Communication | A Reflection Paper by Paulo Habla

Profile image of Paulo Habla

As I sit down and reflect on how communication flourished over the last centuries, I realized how fortunate we are as citizens of the Digital Age to grasp the privilege to be able to send messages across the entire globe with the power of a single click. At the same time I wondered, when was the last time people primarily send their handwritten letters enclosed within an envelope to those they want to relay their message to? Perhaps it has quite been a long time, dating from years and years prior to this time. Although some are still doing so, the vast majority of the population now relies to the ever-changing comfort technology offers.

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  1. Reflective Essay

    reflection essay on effective communication

  2. (PDF) A critical reflection on improving effective team communication

    reflection essay on effective communication

  3. Reflective Essay

    reflection essay on effective communication

  4. The Importance of Effective Communication and Reflection Practice in Essay

    reflection essay on effective communication

  5. Sample essay on communication aspects

    reflection essay on effective communication

  6. Reflection Essay On Business Communication Free Essay Example

    reflection essay on effective communication


  1. What are the strategies for an effective Communication?

  2. Task 7.1. Signed Reflection Essay DEDASTU

  3. Topic 7 Self Reflection Essay

  4. Evidence 1. Personal Reflection Essay

  5. Final Reflection Essay Video

  6. Write English essay on Self Reflection


  1. The Power of Self-Reflection in Effective Communication

    Discover practical strategies to incorporate self-reflection into our daily lives in this article that explores the profound impact of self-reflection on effective communication. Section 1: The Role of Self-Reflection in Communication. Self-reflection is a gateway to self-awareness, enabling us to delve deep into our thoughts, emotions, and ...

  2. Reflective Account of Communication Skills

    The effective communication also gives access to relevant information being shared allowing patients to make informed decisions about their care. (Bramhall, E 2014). ... Treatment Planning System Software Reflective Essay "Improving one's learning and performance could be considered to be a 'meta-skill', that is the skill of learning ...

  3. Reflective practice Gibbs Model essay

    This essay will reflect on an episode of care I was involved in as a student in a Neurological Centre, which involved using effective communication to work collaboratively with Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) and other Healthcare Professionals, in order to plan and deliver patient- centred care for a patient, I will call Shelly.

  4. Reflecting on the communication process in health care. Part 1

    Reflection is a highly beneficial tool (Oelofsen, 2012), one that has played a key role in the author's ongoing examination of her practice. In this context, reflection enables a personal insight into the communication process and highlights the inherent challenges of communication and their pertinence to patient care and clinical practice outcomes (Bramhall, 2014).

  5. Reflecting

    Reflecting is the process of paraphrasing and restating both the feelings and words of the speaker. The purposes of reflecting are: To allow the speaker to 'hear' their own thoughts and to focus on what they say and feel. To show the speaker that you are trying to perceive the world as they see it and that you are doing your best to understand ...

  6. Reflection on effective communication

    A good listener responds appropriately to the person speaking. (Films Media Group,2000). In conclusion, learning about effective communication allows you to become a better writer, speaker, and listener. In your academic life, professional life and personal life. To understand how effective communication skills have allowed me to grow in all ...

  7. The Journey to Mastery: How Self Reflection Can Improve Communication

    Matt Abrahams: With dedicated practice, self-reflection, along with a little guidance, we can all hone and improve our communication skills.. Today we will focus on the idea of communication mastery with my friend, colleague, and mentor, JD Schramm, who in addition to lecturing in Strategic Communication at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, was recently named the Director of the King ...

  8. Communication in Nursing Practice: Gibbs' Reflective Cycle Essay

    Communication is a fundamental element in nursing practice. This element can possibly determine patients' satisfaction and even the outcomes of their treatment (Lotfi et al., 2019). The situation described in the paper will exemplify the potential role of communication, which is why it will serve as a Gibbs Reflective Cycle nursing example.

  9. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    1 Choose a tone. Before you begin to write your reflective essay, choose a tone. Because a reflective essay is more personal than an academic essay, you don't need to use a strict, formal tone. You can also use personal pronouns like I and me in your essay because this essay is about your personal experiences.

  10. The Writing Center

    The style and tone of your reflective essay should match the purpose of the overall assignment. This is a personal essay meant to showcase what you learned from the text, event, or experience that you are writing about. You can use the pronouns "I," "me," and "mine.". Describe the text, event, or experience fully, using plenty of ...

  11. The Art of Effective Communication

    This presentation is intended to challenge its hearers to evaluate their current methods of communicating for the purposes of saving time and emotions, as well as increasing the effectiveness of one's communication. Effective communication can be defined as the delivering of information that is accurately received, in the least amount of time, without being an emotional burden. We can ...

  12. What Is Effective Communication? Skills for Work, School, and Life

    Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and data so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. When we communicate effectively, both the sender and receiver feel satisfied. Communication occurs in many forms, including verbal and non-verbal, written, visual, and ...

  13. The Effect of Reflection on Nurse-Patient Communication Skills in

    Abstract. Introduction: Reflection is formed through deep reflection on the event or a certain clinical position. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of reflection on nurse-patient communication skills of nurses working in emergency departments. Methods: This interventional study was conducted on intervention and control groups ...

  14. Writing a Reflective Paper

    Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone, and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance. A reflective paper is not a research paper. If you are asked to reflect on a course reading ...

  15. Reflection on Nursing Communication Scenario

    This reflective essay should not be treated as an authoritative source of information when forming medical opinions as information may be inaccurate or out-of-date. ... empathy and trustworthiness (Kathol, 2003) (P.33). These qualities can be expressed by promoting effective communication and relationships by the implementation of interpersonal ...

  16. Effective Communication: Self-Reflective Essay On The Skills Learned

    Write a self-reflective essay on the skills learned during the course of your STW 201CS- Effective Communication Skills program. Include any strengths, weaknesses, and personal areas of development. In this reflective essay as a template for this assignment I am using Gibbs Reflective Cycle.

  17. Self Reflection on Communication Skills

    On the other hand, uncertainty reduction theory explains that relationships are built through effective communication, between the parties involved (Blundel and Blundel, 2011). This means that the two theoretical frameworks are concerned with the creation and sustenance of relationships. ... Reflection Paper: This paper contains a reflection on ...

  18. UNV-104 Self Reflection Essay

    SELF Reflection Essay; UNV 104 RS T3 Expository Essay Outline; Final Draft Expository essay; UNV 103 T7 Reference Guide Online; ... Effective Communication in Field of Study Many of us communicate with people every day, whether in person or on the countless digital platforms available for us (Coursera, 2022). Communication occurs in many forms ...

  19. Self-Reflection: Benefits and How to Practice

    These are some of the benefits of self-reflection, according to the experts: Increased self-awareness: Spending time in self-reflection can help build greater self-awareness, says Wilson. Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. It helps you recognize and understand your own emotions, as well as the impact of your emotions ...

  20. A Reflection Paper by Paulo Habla

    In short, this call for papers seeks to gather reflections and studies that address the complexity, speed and uncertainty of the communicative practices of contemporary societies and communities and include basic, primary and simple forms of human communication as well as those mediated by the development and reach of technology and artificial intelligence.

  21. A Reflection on the Importance of Communication

    It is vital that communication remains productive and reinforces the relationship between co-workers, because a positive environment is paramount to developing a strong organizational culture ...

  22. A critical reflection on improving effective team communication

    Abstract: Objective: This paper aims at critically re ecting on the author's personal experience in the context of communication within a nursing. team and exploring relevant existing ...

  23. UNV-104 Topic 7 Self-Reflection Essay

    Effective Communication To be a successful educator, I will need to effectively communicate with my students and colleagues using the information I have learned in this class. To communicate requires more than just producing language, or, to put it another way, transmitting information, it also means fostering interaction and manipulating wants ...

  24. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue.