Skills Of Communication
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There are three important ways of communicating in social work: listening, talking and writing.
Listening skill in social work implies reading more than words from the clients conversation. The worker must absorb the clients ways of expressing hidden feelings. There is as much information in the silence, and implied body language as in the sound of the words. The clear and evident part of the client rhetoric is called the manifest content, and the understated, underlined, an implied connotation (usually where the meat of the conversation is) is the latent content.
Talking skills, dialogue between the worker and the client has professional goals: information gathering and therapeutic change. Information gathering is to obtain factual and specific information in the interview. Therapeutic changes goal is to effect change in the functioning of the clients or their environment (Phillips, 2002).
Writing skills is part of social workers professional responsibilities. Good writing skills are required for maintaining written records, progress notes, referral letters, advocacy letters and journals.
The basis for a clear communication relies on positive attitude and feelings from both the encoder and the decoder; awareness of and sensitivity to differences and similarities between both ends of the communication link (Brill, 2005); capacity of the client to use verbal and nonverbal communication, and ability of the worker to decode it; simple and plain language graded to the tempo and functioning level of the client, and control of the ecosystem where the communication takes place (avoidance of interference).
Nonverbal communication – Is the basic primitive form of conveying information from one person to another without the use of words. Nonverbal communication is continuous, particularly in the initial stages of a relationship. Often a person says one thing but communicates something different through vocal intonation and body language. These mixed signals force the receiver to choose between verbal and nonverbal parts of the message. Most often, the receiver chooses the nonverbal aspects. Mixed messages convey to the receiver that the communicator is hiding something or is being less than candid (Bany, 2002). Mattaini (1997) says “there are so many ways to communicate these feelings and expressions from client to worker and vise versa with nonverbal channels that is so crucial to stay alert for any conscious or unconscious flag arisen there” (p. 159). Forms or nonverbal communication alone or combined are voices tone, facial expressions, gestures and body movements, physical appearance, body sounds and scents, touch and personal space, and environment.
The purpose of verbal communication is to empower us with the ability to transmit our knowledge, values, ideas and feelings from one generation to another to preserve our civilization. Forms of verbal communication that have helped us preserve our ancestry are Storytelling, Singing, Humor and Prayers.
On the other hand, more sophisticated and purposeful forms of verbal communication used in social work are Interview & Discussion.
Other forms of communication have arisen with technology: electronic communication (Internet, computers and wireless devices), communication with symbols and sign language.
The process of communication has 3 parts: the encoder, the channel, and decoder. Encoding and decoding are made in light of 3 factors, perception, context and culture. Perception is how the decoder interprets and understands the message. Perception might be affected by receivers expectation and biases.
Context (the time place and conditions in which the message takes place) not only affects, but also does much to determine the content of the message.
Culture (accumulated experiences and behavior patterns) affects our mental thought process (understanding) and may distort the intended message if the code in which it is transmitted is foreign to our everyday lifestyle.
The six basic skills used in social work are Differential Diagnosis, Partialization, Timing, Focus, Establishing Partnership, and Creating Structure.
Differential Diagnosis – Is the capacity of the worker to understand clients uniqueness; clients situation, and clients level of functioning. Such assessment will allow selection of the proper technique to deal with the client proficiently.
Partialization – Is the setting of the clients prerogatives. The worker assesses the totality of clients problems, and then categorizes them in manageable packages. With workers help, client decides where the repairing should begin.
Timing – This concept encompasses to categories:
The personal tempo or speed at which the worker gears his/hers technique around the client.
When the workers practical wisdom tells the right time to introduce advisement. This advisement is triggered by verbal and non verbal cue of the clients perceptiveness (Drill, 2005).
Focus – Is the activity where both workers and clients efforts are concentrated on a significant situation. The workers function is to prevent client not to be sidetracked from the problem at hand.
Establishing Partnership – Is a relationship between the worker and the client with clear understanding of everyones role, and the task assigned to each role. It is a complementary relationship: the clients must participate in solving their own problems. The workers role is to supply what the clients lack: guidance.
Creating Structure – Once the partialization has taken place, and the partnership is established, the worker should lay the rules of the modus operandi.
Worker and client must create a flexible functioning system.
The techniques most often used to implement the basic skills are Small Talk, Ventilation, Support, Reassurance, Confrontation, conflict, Manipulation, Universalization, Advice giving & Counseling, Activities & Programs, Logical Discussion, Reward & Punishment, Role rehearsal & Demonstration, Crisis and Touch.
Small talk – It is the apparently inconsequential conversation