2.1.6 Methods of Understanding

Now that you understand how communication happens, you need to know that messages can be sent in many ways. Here are some of the major ones:

Non-Verbal Communication

Verbal Communication

  • Body language. Physical movements—facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space—send a message. Your body language not only communicates to others, but also influences your own feelings.
  • Facial expressions. Our face may speak louder than words. People can understand what we are feeling based on facial expressions. Technically, facial expressions are a type of body language, but because they communicate so much, it is helpful to consider them separately.
  • Touch. Touch is another form of body language that is helpful to discuss separately in the context of health care. Think about how and when you will touch your clients in your professional role.
  • Spoken language. There are over 7,000 languages spoken around the world. The top three most common languages are Mandarin, English and Spanish.
  • Written communication. Written forms of conveying information include words, symbols and emojis.
  • Sign language. Although sign language users are speaking through their body movement, this type of communication is considered to be verbal, as it is a language, with motions standing in for specific words. There are more than 100 variants of sign language throughout the world. In Canada, the most common sign language is American Sign Language (ASL).
  • Silence. Silence can qualify as both verbal and non-verbal, as it is, by definition, non-verbal—yet silence is employed between words, sentences and thoughts in our verbal communication. Silence is an important part of effective communication.

Practice Makes Perfect

Is a picture truly worth a thousand words? Pay attention to the clients in each image. Now, try to interpret the clients’ body language by associating the emotions provided with each image. Drag and drop the emotion word on top of the image you think it best fits. You do not need to use all of the words. There are no “right” answers for this exercise.

Now, consider: why did you make each association? What was it about the client’s body language that led to your choice?

There are other forms of communication beyond verbal and non-verbal—although you may not realize they are communication:

  • Music is a proficient way to convey feeling and recall memories. It is used in therapies successfully for all ages and many diagnoses.
  • Mathematics conveys measurements and formulas to work out problems. It is used in all areas in the world in some form.
  • Programming. In the world of the computer, programming is the form of conveying information allowing us to communicate worldwide.

Now that you understand the forms communication can take, how can you enhance understanding during communication with a client? Review the following list of tips:

  • Pay attention to the client, listening without allowing yourself to be distracted.
  • Face the client.
  • Make eye contact, if culturally appropriate, to show you are interested.
  • Lean towards them slightly to show your interest.
  • Respond to them if they want you to talk:
    • Paraphrase their message back to them.
    • Ask open-ended questions for more information.
    • Stick to one subject instead of adding other issues to confuse problems.

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