Everything you do or say communicates a message.
Good communication skills are essential. Speaking, listening, feedback, and actions are important for everything a PCW does:
- providing proper care, following directions
- showing concern, building trust
- getting along with residents, families, visitors, and co-workers reducing conflict, solving problems
- reporting observations, giving clear messages
- listening, not interrupting or judging
- explaining procedures, resolving concerns
- building relationships
Communication simply means sending and receiving messages. However, effective communication involves more than words. Both verbal and nonverbal messages carry meaning.
Verbal. Words. Use simple and clear words.
Nonverbal. Body language. Everything you do sends a message:
- facial expressions;
- tone of voice;
- eye contact;
- silence touch.
Verbal and nonverbal language must agree in order to send clear messages. The problem is that most people are not aware of their nonverbal behavior. Unless verbal and nonverbal language agree, the listener gets a mixed message. For example, if the PCW expresses care and concern, but stands with folded arms and a look of disgust, the client gets conflicting messages. Unfortunately, when messages are mixed, the nonverbal impressions speak louder than the words.
Communicate as clearly as possible to avoid any confusion. Medical abbreviations are important for PCWs lo know in order to understand instructions. But do not use abbreviations when you are talking with the clients or their families. Use words that are easily understood.
Active listening takes effort, self-control, and practice. Pay attention to what the other person is saying, and fight the tendency to think about your reply while the other person is talking. Avoid interrupting or finishing someone else’s sentences. Teach yourself to be patient and wait for your tum to talk.
Clients need to feel listened to, heard, and understood. Listen for facts and listen for feelings. Ask questions when you do not understand. Being a good listener helps the PCW learn what the client likes and doesn’t like, as well as problems, concerns, interests, and needs.
Words have different meanings to different people, which can lead to misunderstandings. Feedback is a process to avoid confusion and to clear up any misunderstanding.
To be sure that you understand what others say to you, paraphrase (repeat what you heard using your own words). Ask if the statement is correct. Check whether others understand what you are saying by asking questions and encouraging feedback.
Guidelines for Effective Communication
Open your heart to the clients, and try to understand their problems, pain, and frustrations. Try to imagine what it is like to be in their situation. Take time to smile and say “hello.” Convey warmth, understanding, and interest. Small acts of kindness can brighten someone’s day.
Communicate with people at their level of under standing. Use an appropriate manner, level, and pace according to individual abilities.
- Take time to listen.
- Be patient, and show respect.
- Think before you speak.
- Be aware of your body language.
- Speak clearly, and use a friendly tone.
- Use simple words and short sentences.
- Ask open questions (e.g., “how?” or “why?”).
- Paraphrase (summarize in your own words).
- Ask for clarification.
- Be alert to key words about feelings (e.g., “guilt” or “hurt”), and ask for more information.
- Avoid criticizing or judging.
- Do not interrupt.
Good communication skills build positive relation ships. Keys to maintaining good relationships include kindness, caring, and understanding.
Good Communication Techniques
- Listening: Take the time to listen. Pay attention to what others are saying and ask questions. Always communicate what you are doing with the care recipient. Do not work in silence.
- Be patient: Give others the time to say what they want.
- Eye contact: Look at the person and focus on what he/she is saying. Listen with interest.
- Body Language: Be aware of facial expressions and tone of voice. Watch others for differences between verbal and non-verbal messages.
- Keep conversations and words simple and clear.
- Use feedback: Repeat what you heard in your own words.
- DO NOT do the following:
- Argue with anyone;
- Interrupt a conversation;
- Appear bored or impatient;
- Pass judgment or give advice;
- Threaten or use harsh language;
- Be defensive – (It is better to be open to suggestions).
Barriers to communication.
There are many reasons why interpersonal communications may fail. In many communications, the message (what is said) may not be received exactly the way the sender intended. It is, therefore, important that the communicator seeks feedback to check that their message is clearly understood.
The skills of Active Listening, Clarification and Reflection may help but the skilled communicator also needs to be aware of the barriers to effective communication and how to avoid or overcome them.
There are many barriers to communication and these may occur at any stage in the communication process. Barriers may lead to your message becoming distorted and you therefore risk wasting both time and/or money by causing confusion and misunderstanding. Effective communication involves overcoming these barriers and conveying a clear and concise message.
Common Barriers to Effective Communication:
A skilled communicator must be aware of these barriers and try to reduce their impact by continually checking understanding and by offering appropriate feedback.
- The use of jargon. Over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms.
- Emotional barriers and taboos. Some people may find it difficult to express their emotions and some topics may be completely ‘off-limits’ or taboo.
- Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver.
- Differences in perception and viewpoint.
- Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties.
- Physical barriers to non-verbal communication. Not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language can make communication less effective.
- Language differences and the difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents.
- Expectations and prejudices which may lead to false assumptions or stereotyping. People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions.
- Cultural differences. The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed. For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings.
- Physical and emotional condition changes.