Day 12 – Communication Techniques for HELPERS

Do you work in the Helping Profession? Counseling? Medicine? Ministry? Teaching? Are you a parent? There are certain techniques that can be incredibly helpful when working in some kind of interpersonally-focused job. (And from everything I know about parenting… it IS a full-time, all-consuming job)! So how do you:

  • Facilitate good conversation
  • Get people to open up
  • Promote a trusting relationship
  • Help people feel safe
  • Encourage personal growth

 

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Here are some communication tips to help:

Show empathy

There are few things better than knowing someone truly understands you. Empathy and sympathy are two different things. Sympathy can be shown by saying “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.” It indicates sad feelings but also comes across a bit disconnected from the situation. Empathy indicates you really get it. You understand on a deep, personal level what someone is really experiencing. People feel understood when you label their emotions and say something like, “Wow that’s <horrible, scary, sad, exciting etc.>” Or, “It can be frustrating when <a, b or c> happend.” They feel like you really get it and are  versus simply letting them know you feel sorry for them.

Use Silence

Silence can be awkward for many people. In “real life” people do whatever they can to avoid moments of silence by telling jokes, stories or just chatting away to fill the time. But in the helping profession, silence can be a valuable tool. Silence can be used to break up constant chatter. It slows people down, allows them to take a deep breath and really sit and process what they’re thinking and feeling. In a sense, it is communicating to them, “Breathe. It’s okay. I’ll sit with you while you take a moment to think.” Many times we cover up our true feelings by talking “over them” so to speak. Silence allows them to rise to the surface so they can actually be addressed.

Summarize

Have you ever had a conversation that went off on tons of rabbit trails? Or what about one where the person telling the story gave so many details you now know the their mom’s favorite food and their aunt’s cousin’s birthplace? Sometimes we have so many thoughts that we want to get out and we aren’t sure which details are relevant so we just vomit out all of them. As a “helper” it’s often beneficial to summarize the most important points stated, to not only clarify for yourself, but also to help the speaker clear up any confusion in their own mind.

See you next time for more tips for Helpers!

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