Know Yourself and the
Introduction. A key to communicating effectively with people who come to the regional center for service is knowing something about your own value system. This sets the stage for understanding how your personal values affect: (1) your behavior; (2) your relationships with others; and, (3) your communication.
An effective service coordinator must develop the ability to work with an individual (family, or conservator) without being overly influenced by his or her own personal value system. For example, take a few minutes to think about the following situations you are likely to encounter as a service coordinator on a daily basis:
Cultural differences affect your communication. For example, in some cultures, a child with a disability lives with the family and extended family as long as they are alive. Consider the following situations as they are affected by your own culture and experience and how they might affect your communication:
Awareness is a key to successful communication. Our culture and life experience can be either a bridge or a barrier to effective communication. In order to be an effective communicator and service coordinator, it's important to:
Question your beliefs. The successful service coordinator integrates his or her personal self with his or her professional self during each communication interaction. Below, you will find some questions (Fils) that service coordinators might ask themselves before a communication interaction. These questions (which have been adapted) may serve as a way to identify your personal values and how they might influence the way in which you communicate with an individual or family. There are now right or wrong answers to the following:
If answer any of these questions with a no, consider asking for support from a peer or your supervisor in working with this individual (family, or conservator). Support can be anything from talking about how your feelings might influence your communication to consideration of working as a team with another service coordinator.
Predicting the weather or setting the stage for a positive communication climate. Once you have some awareness of your personal belief system and how it affects your communication, it's time to start thinking about the communication climates you encounter every day. Each time we communicate with others, we experience a different communication climate which is made up of the tone, the mood and the attitude of those people involved in the communication. The effectiveness of any communication may depend on the ability of the service coordinator to create a positive climate.
Indicators of a positive communication climate include:
Empathy Empathy is "entering imaginatively into the inner life of someone else." (Kadushin). Empathy has two important aspects: (1) the perception of the life experience of another (along with the feeling generated by that perception); and, (2) the communication of that perception. A service coordinator does not have to have any experience with individuals who have disabilities to try to understand how a person feels at a particular time. We are all people first!
Descriptiveness Descriptiveness means "putting into words the behaviors you have observed or the feelings you have." (Verderber) For the effective service coordinator, this means describing individuals (families, or conservators), behaviors, or encounters without labeling them good or bad, right or wrong.
The skill of descriptiveness works in both oral as well as written communication. For example, look at the difference between
"Mary treated us to a major tantrum in the lobby."
"Mary was crying and screamed twice at me in the lobby."
Phrasing ideas tentatively Acknowledging that the other person has a viewpoint and letting it be heard. For example, an individual may be asking for something that the service coordinator might consider unrealistic. An effective service coordinator can hear the point of view and feed it back without adding a personal bias or expectation.
Equality Equality means simply being on the same level, or seeing others as worthwhile as one's self (Verderber). Projecting an air of superiority, or encouraging a perception that one is superior results in a negative rather than a positive communication climate. An effective service coordinator may is conscious of facial expressions, dress, and the physical layout of the area in which the communication occurs.
Creating a positive communication climate. The following are strategies for creating climates of positive communication:REFERENCES
Becker, B. 1988. The Art of Communicating. Los Altos, CA: CRISP Publications, Inc.
Edelman, L., Greenland, B., and Mills, B. L. 1993. Family Centered Communication Skills, St. Paul, MN: Pathfinder Resources.
Fortini-Campbell, L., May, M., Kangas, M., and Bailey, P. 1978. A Communicator's Handbook. Seattle, WA: Western States Technical Assistance Resource.
Kadushin, A. The Social Work Interview. 1972. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Verderber, K.S. and Verderber, R. 1977. InterAct: Using Interpersonal Communication
Skills, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.