Top Tips - Communication Techniques
How can you help others to get their message across?
Key skills in communicating
 Demonstrate genuineness, empathy and respect
 Attend and listen in order to understand problems and needs
 Use yourself as a tool!
 Probing
 Questioning
 Focusing
 Summarising (this can help provide focus and direction, as well as letting the
other person know you have understood what they have said to you)
 Challenging
Communication can be verbal and non-verbal; we are always communicating but
may not always use words:
 A child truanting
 An angry scowling teenager
 An adult crying
We need to learn to understand what is being said even when no words are used.
Qualities that facilitate communication skills
 Empathy or understanding
 Respect
 Being specific
 Self-knowledge & self-acceptance
 Genuineness
 Congruence
First impressions count
 Plan and prepare
 Be punctual
 Clarify forms of address e.g. Mrs/Mr/first names
 Welcoming, shaking hands-consider individual preferences and cultural
influences (Trevithick 2000)
 Be clear. Use simple language and avoid jargon
 Be concise. Communicate key issues succinctly
 Be comprehensive-keep in mind all the key issues (Koprowska 2005)
 Be courteous. A level of polite formality, respect for individuality and diversity
 Creating a working alliance, building rapport
 A focus on the relationship. Trust and integrity are essential.
Models and theories of communication
S - Face the client squarely
O - Adopt an open posture
L - Lean towards the other
E - Maintain good eye contact
R - Try to be relatively relaxed or natural in these behaviours
Egan offers a practical model of helping. Qualities identified by Egan as important in
a ‘helping role’:
 Commitment
 Competent
 Integrity
 Reflective
 Self-aware
 Working in the client’s best interests
Skills identified by Egan as important in a helping role
 Engaging
 Listening
 Observing
 Questioning
 Challenging
Asking difficult questions
“We have to override the social conventions which discourage us from asking difficult
questions” (2005:156)
How do we avoid poor communication?
Poor communication can leave us feeling misunderstood, alone with our problems,
angry or upset. How do we ensure we don’t leave others feeling this way?
What does communicating effectively mean?
 Listening
 Asking the ‘right’ questions
 Understanding subtle nuances in conversation
 Recognising and responding to distress, fear, anxiety, shame etc
 Being clear, confident and sensitive
 Staying focused i.e. ensure you are not side-tracked
 Giving people who use services time to ‘tell their story’. Service users/carers
repeatedly report that they value friendliness, respect, warmth and honesty.
 Hold in mind that not everyone who uses services welcomes professional
 Essential to maintain professional standards
What is poor communication (what we need to avoid)
 Non-listening
 Partial listening or only half listening (how annoying is that?!)
 Tape recorder listening- repeating back without thought
 Rehearsing-thinking about what you are going to say next instead of listening to
what is being actually said
 Interrupting the other person
 Trying to do something else at the same time
 Assuming we know what they mean or assuming they think or feel the same way
as we do about something
The central role of empathy
Empathy is key to communicating well. What is it?
 Putting ourselves in another’s place/looking at things from another’s point of view
 Sympathy is feeling for another as opposed to empathy which is being with
another person
 Goes beyond sympathy (passive understanding) to enter another’s world
(Trevithick 2000:81)
 Communicating understanding of one another’s point of view by using our
communication skills
 Another person’s point of view is made up not only of experiences, behaviours
and feelings but also the interpretation or the slant the person gives to these.
Egan, G. (2002), The Skilled Helper USA: Brooks/Cole
Koprowska, J. (2005), Communication and Interpersonal Skills in Social Work.
Exeter: Learning Matters.
Trevithick, P. (2000), Social Work Skills: A Practice Handbook Philadelphia: Open
University Press
Middlesex University’s training proposal ‘Assessing and enabling skills in Adult
Social Care: One day course outline for London Borough of Barnet Assessment &
Enablement Officers 2009