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Communicating difficult things well


Communicating difficult things well Establishing effective relationships with parents and carers Jo Fox – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Date added: 17 November 2019
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Title: Communicating difficult things well

Communicating difficult things well
  • Establishing effective relationships with parents
    and carers
  • Jo Fox

  • Our INTENT, when we communicate, is NOT as
    important as the other persons perception of our

  • The PARALANGUAGE the non verbal elements in
    speech such as tone of voice, look in eye,
    mirroring of body language, hand gestures, and
    state of emotions that the listener can detect.

  • Hearing is the recognition of sound
  • Listening is something we chose to do and
    involves both hearing and looking for meaning
    we are fully present.

5 main categories of response to others
  • Evaluative making a judgement about the worth,
    goodness or appropriateness of the other persons
  • Interpretive paraphrasing attempting to
    explain what the other persons statement means
  • Supportive attempting to assist or bolster the
  • Probing attempting to gain additional
    information, continue discussion or clarify a
  • Understanding attempting to discover completely
    what the other communicator means by his or her
  • IN order of how frequently they occur in daily

Exercise the opposite of talking
  • In groups of three tell a story about parents. It
    can be personal, professional, about someone you
    know, even someone you do not know.
  • Each person should get a turn to tell the story.
    One person should be an active listener and the
    other an observer of the process.
  • Tell this story for 5 minutes no more and no
    less. If you run out of things to say it is the
    responsibility of the listener to encourage them
    to say more.
  • The observer should take notes of the different
    communication skills demonstrated during the five
    minutes. Also be on the look out for any themes
    that emerge about parents during the discussion.
  • Each person is to take a turn in each role.

Feeback from Exercise
  • What does our use of language tell us about our
    values and judgements we make?
  • What families are we comfortable/anxious with?
  • What dynamic are we adding to the situation?
  • Did we include fathers?
  • What were you thinking when listening to your

A relational task- Connection
  • The most important tool? How do you listen, look,
    make sense, interpret?
  • Parents perspective what do they see, hear,
    feel and think when they are hearing you?
  • Child has to remain priority how can they be an
    integral part of any communication process?

Understanding the sub text
Kieran McKeown, A guide to what works in family
support services for vulnerable families (Dublin,
  • Listen to the audio
  • What do you think is happening
  • Write down how you feel as you are listening
  • Feedback
  • What could he have done differently?
  • What do we need to be aware of when talking to

  • Engagement is the basic task of a child and
    families worker but can never be taken for
    granted and must always be worked for

The family context
  • Often hard core families so interactions
    characterised by
  • guardedness or reluctance to share information
  • avoidance and a desire to leave the relationship
  • strong negative feelings such as anxiety, anger,
    suspicion, guilt or despair.

The family context
  • We need to accept that
  • The best we may be able to achieve is honesty
    rather than positive feelings and a high degree
    of mutuality
  • Conflict and disagreement are not something to be
    avoided, but are realities that must be explored
    and understood.

Why many interventions fail
  • Failure to consider where families are starting
    from (probably different from the professionals)
  • Failure to focus on strengths as well as
  • Failure to understand the impact of shame

Potential parental responses
  • Genuine commitment
  • Compliance / approval seeking
  • Tokenism
  • Dissent / avoidance
  • (Horwath and Morrison, 2000)

Strategies for enhancing engagement
  • Before you start, check your mindset (your own
    biases and assumptions)
  • Have realistic expectations
  • It is reasonable that involuntary clients resent
    being forced to participate
  • Because they are forced to participate,
    hostility, silence and non-compliance are common
    responses that do not reflect my skills as a
  • Due to the barriers created by the practice
    situation, clients may have little opportunity to
    discover if they like me
  • Lack of client co-operation is due to the
    practice situation, not to my specific actions
    and activities
  • (Ivanoff et al, 1994 )

During initial contacts
  • Adopt a non-defensive stance
  • Be clear, honest and direct and acknowledge the
    involuntary nature of the relationship
  • Clarify roles and expectations, including what is
    required of the client
  • Explain consequences of non-compliance and the
    advantages of compliance
  • (Ivanoff et al, 1994 )

  • Expressions of over-concern
  • Moralising
  • Criticising the client
  • Making false promises
  • Displaying impatience

  • Ridiculing the client
  • Blaming the client for his/her failures
  • Being dogmatic
  • Rejecting the clients right to express different
    values and preferences
  • (Ivanoff et al, 1994 )

Try to
  • Invite participation
  • Understand how the client sees the problem as
    well as how we see it
  • Understand what the client wants, as well as what
    we want
  • (Ivanoff et al, 1994 )

Identifying resistance, 4 categories
  • Hostile resistance anger threats, intimidation,
  • Passive aggressive compliance covers antagonism
    and anger
  • Passive hopeless Tearfulness and despair about
  • Challenging Cure me if you can!

How might resistance show itself?
  • By only being prepared to consider 'safe' or low
    priority areas for discussion.
  • By not turning up for appointments
  • By being overly co-operative with professionals.
  • By being verbally/and or physically aggressive.
  • By minimising the issues.
  • (Egan, 1994)

What might we be doing to make it worse?
  • Becoming impatient and hostile
  • Doing nothing, hoping the resistance will go away
  • Lowering expectations
  • Blaming the family member
  • Absorbing the family member's anger
  • Allowing the family member to control the
    assessment inappropriately

What might we be doing to make it worse?
  • Becoming unrealistic
  • Believing that family members must like and trust
    us before assessment can proceed.
  • Ignoring the enforcing role of some aspects of
    child protection work and hence refusing to place
    any demands on family members.
  • (Egan, 1994)

Working with Resistance
  • What strategies do you currently have?
  • Work with and alongside
  • Find something that is done well and work from

Productive approaches
  • Give practical, emotional support - especially by
    being available, predictable and consistent
  • See some resistance and reluctance as normal
  • Explore our own resistance to change and by
    examining the quality of our own interventions
    and communication style
  • (Egan, 1994)

Productive approaches
  • Establish a strong and well-articulated
    relationship by
  • clarifying all the rules of sharing records,
  • inviting people to meetings
  • sharing with them how and why you have to make
  • explaining the complaints procedure
  • (Egan, 1994)

Productive approaches
  • Helping family members to identify incentives for
    moving beyond resistance
  • Tapping the potential of other people who are
    respected as partners by the family member
  • Understanding that reluctance and resistance may
    be avoidance or a signal that we are not doing
    our job very well
  • (Egan, 1994)

Effective communication involves
  • Logical discussion
  • Focusing
  • Prioritising
  • Summarising
  • Setting realistic limits

Effective communication involves
  • Universalising
  • Confronting
  • Educating
  • Modelling behaviour

Effective communication involves
  • Recognising difference
  • Accepting
  • Allowing ventilation
  • Relating to feelings
  • Direct intervention in the environment

Feelings that empower communication
  • Compassion
  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Authenticity
  • Courage

Exercise - Communications
  • Stop
  • things I need to stop doing
  • things the organisation needs to stop doing
  • Start
  • Things I need to start doing
  • Things the organisation needs to start doing
  • Stay
  • Things I do well already
  • Things the organisation does well already

Managing Risk
  • Importance of planning
  • Use of history
  • Consider environment
  • Timing

Professional Cynicism
  • Parents/carers not always honest or engagement
    may be superficial
  • Importance of boundaries
  • Two key questions
  • What has changed for the child since your
  • What has the parent done differently to make
    childs life better?

On message?
  • To be effective in the lives of disempowered
    people, you have to be seen as a part of the
    solution not as part of the problem

Secondary Trauma
  • The work is hard and need to make good use of
  • Resilience in ourselves
  • Accepting uncertainty as part of our day to day

Information overload
  • Moved from an environment of information scarcity
    to information overload.
  • How do we distinguish between true but useless
    (TBU) and true and useful information?
  • How many different sources are there for
    information available to you?

When communicating remember
  • Information does not always equal knowledge
  • Knowledge does not always equal wisdom
  • Wisdom does not always equal action
  • Saying is NOT doing