Communication Skills Essay
For this module interpersonal skills and therapeutic communication, we have been asked to write a reflective essay that examines our own communication and interpersonal skills developed to date. To do this I will research the theories behind interpersonal communication; during reflection I will identify areas of my own strengths and weaknesses, building my concept of self-awareness and acknowledging room for personal development. To do this I have decided to use a model based on ‘Stages of reflection’ (Gibbs 1988) (see appendices 1).
By using this model it allows me to reflect in a structured way.
I will start off by demonstrating my understanding of interpersonal communication. After reading information from various sources I now understand that ‘interpersonal communication’ is made up of both spoken language (actual words spoken), paralinguistic communication (tone, pitch, speed, volume) and non-verbal communication (facial expressions, eye contact, glaze, body posture) between two or more people. Mehrabian (1972) cited by Hargie (2011a. p. 7) suggests that communication is made up of 55% body language, 38 % paralanguage and just 7% verbal content; however Guerro and Floyd (2006) cited in Peate (2012 p.
159) offer a more modest statement that non- verbal communication consists of approximately 60 to 65 %. Although both theorists strongly advise that non – verbal communication plays a large part in communication, the exact proportion of verbal to non-verbal communication cannot be confirmed. Methuen (1975) cited by Price (1996. p. 47) suggests there are two functions of non- verbal communication.
The first is the expression of emotion, whilst the second illustrates and supports the speech. Before starting this course, I would have described my communication skills with other people as warm and kind, open and friendly and polite. If I were honest, I hadn’t really acknowledged my non-verbal communicative skills; this was not through ignorance but more of a lack of knowledge and understanding of the importance of them. Now on reflection and taking into account the above statements, when reflecting on my own skills, I think that when I engage into a therapeutic/supportive conversation, a large part of it is non-verbal communication.
During the conversation stated in Gibbs (1988) Reflective cycle (see appendices 1), I have become aware that I do offer gestures of acknowledgement and interest through nodding my head when I understand, this showed that I was interested, understood and an openness to listen, which allowed the conversation to keep flowing. I have learnt that body language, orientation along with gestures and touch when used in the right context can be a positive implication on the effects of communication, and this is something that I have very little experience in but would now like to implement this into my practice.
Egan (1990) cited in Tilmouth and Davies-Ward et al (2011a. p. 38) used the acronym SOLER to help create a therapeutic relationship (see appendices 3). I will use this model when practicing my communication skills. I try and maintain eye contact, I am aware that eye contact is one of the most effective types of non-verbal communication. Heron (1970) cited in Burnard (1997 p. 91) suggest that eye contact is a vital channel of communication in most interpersonal encounters, eye contact enables the other person’s non-verbal signals such as facial expressions to be received and decoded.
One aspect that I show little awareness of is my facial expressions; I think that this is an important factor to address as it has found to be a way of easily recognising how somebody is feeling. I should be aware of emotions, especially when engaging in therapeutic communication. Elkman el al.. (1987) cited in Pennington and Gillen et al (1999 p. 183) suggests that 6 basic emotions have been found to be universally recognised, they are happiness, fear, surprise, sadness, anger and disgust.
When reflecting upon my skills using paralinguistic communication, I am very aware that the way we moderate our speech can affect how our messages are received. Throughout the day, my situation may change many times, I have to adapt the skills I’m using to be appropriate to the audience and situation. I work in an environment where different approaches to communication are required regularly, working with children of different ages, parents and alongside other members of staff. I am very aware of my tone of voice. I try to ensure that conversation is received in a gentle manner and not misunderstood in any way.
I think that the speed in which I talk is appropriate, although I am aware that it does tend to speed up when I’m nervous when talking in groups along with hesitations, as I have stated in my SWOB analysis (see appendices 2). I aim to improve on this by practicing my presentation skills, and rehearsing so that I am confident in what I know. When using verbal communication in practice, I communicate with a wide range of people, I am aware that I have to change the way I communicate with different audiences. Snyder and Stakas (2007) cited in Hargie (2011b. p. ) suggest that “Our behaviour is influenced to a very large degree by situational demands. ” I am always aware and thinking about the choice of words I should use, whether they will be understood by the receiving party. Some parents I communicate with have English as an additional language, so some thought has to go into how I explain some information. The development of interpersonal skills and communication is important when it comes to forming therapeutic relationships. Tilmouth and Davies Ward et al (2011b) defined a therapeutic relationship as ‘the relationship is one in which the client is helped in some way’.
After researching different sources of information, I understand it as being a bond that has mutually developed between a healthcare professional and a patient. The relationship has developed by focusing on the needs of the patient, taking into account their previous experiences, feelings and planning by focusing on specific areas of improvement. Boundaries have been set, and the practitioner has offered commitment of confidentiality and shows the patient unconditional positive regard and empathy.
One theory behind forming a therapeutic relationship I looked at was Gerard Egan’s three stage model (2002). I liked this approach as I thought it was a useful tool to help the process flow into some logical order. During my conversation stated in my reflective cycle, I used elements of this theory into practice. I was able to explore the problem with my colleague, asking questions to gain a further understanding, accepting and being supportive. We then talked about our understanding of the situation and together made sense of it all.
I offered some advice from personal experiences with negative thoughts and attitudes (self-disclosure) and went on to mutually agree on ideas to enable positive experiences for her son. I feel this worked well in practice, and it would be an approach that I would consider practicing again. During this module, I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the theories behind interpersonal communication. It has made me aware of the important factors that influence our ability to communicate effectively. I have discovered areas for improvement and plan to move forward and address them to enable me to become a competent, confident practitioner.