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Essay about Nonverbal Communication In Social Work

A vital element of social work is to be able to engage and communicate effectively with others. Communication can be defined as an event of giving and receiving information. Interpersonal skills, ability to develop a positive and trusting relationship and being able to show empathy determines the quality and effectiveness of interaction with others. Through Communication we engage with service users and be able to form assessments, conduct interviews, take up decision making and problem solving activities, draw and implement care plans and evaluate our effectiveness (Trevithick:2005).

Communication skills support us to obtain required information and allow others to express their feelings and emotions with confidence and without fear. Forming a relationship with people who may be going through hard times in their life is not a simple task. Social workers have the ability to help people to feel safe, express and explore their feelings (Howe: 2008). This is only possible when people find it easy to talk to you and feel important and know that they are not considered inferior in any way at all.

People feel more confident and establish a feeling of self-worth, if they are communicated with respect. Trevithick rites that “One way to establish a rapport is to ensure that the welcome people receive is warm and respectful” (Trevithick, 2005: 150). I responded to a duty call where a care agency had reported that Mrs D’s son is moving her out of the borough. She suffers from the early stages of dementia. About three months ago she moved from daughter’s house to live with the son. Her son and daughters do not get along and there is a history of one accusing the other for not having her best interest at heart.

I visited with a social work colleague to ascertain if she was aware and in agreement of this out of the borough move. Mrs D can only communicate in Punjabi language. I needed to draw on my bilingual skills to break down the language barrier and ensure effective communication, also provide an opportunity for her to take active part in discussion and put her point across in the language she feels comfortable speaking. Lishman (2009) points out the possibility of losing the key information when using an interpreter and puts emphasis on the need of choosing an interpreter with the appropriate understanding of social work.

Mrs D experiences symptoms of dementia but has been assessed to have the mental capacity to make a decision around er living arrangements. Our involvement was to ensure that she is making an informed choice and was exercising her right to move with her son without being pressured or forced. Also to ascertain if there was any need for us to assist this move. Mrs D’s son became very angry when questioned about the move and felt that we were interfering in their personal life. His body language and tone of verbal communication made it apparent that he felt threatened by our presence.

Thompson (2003) recognises that body language has as much importance as the words. Body language and unintentional signals given by the peaker reach persons subconscious and people take more account of body language than words. Trevithick (2005) also supports the significance of non-verbal communication during social workers interaction with service users. Understanding and recognising emotional states and their possible consequences also help to assess anxiety and stress felt by the service users. For instance, clenching fists, shouting, crying or withdrawal are behavioural consequences of different emotions (Megele: 2011).

He believed that this visit was instructed by her sister as an attempt to prevent him from carrying out their plans. Better nitial communication regarding the purpose of our visit would have avoided this misunderstanding. Clarity should be established from the beginning (Lishman: 2009) to eliminate misunderstanding, which can be one of the major factors affecting outcomes. Communication malfunction prevented to create a positive relationship, however this was corrected immediately and clarity was established to ensure that the outcome was not affected.

Good Interviewing techniques were employed to conduct a productive interview. Open questions, active listening and attention are good tools to explore and extract information from service users. Egan (2010) has presented SOLER (S= Square on, O =Open, L= Leaning forward, E= Eye contact, R =Relaxed) approach as good starter of any meetings or an interview with the service users. This approach accompanied by open questions may encourage service user to open up and be comfortable during the conversation. At the same time some aspects of SOLER approach require balance depending on the type of conversation.

Too much eye contact and leaning forward can be interpreted as rude or disturbing for some service users. It may not be culturally appropriate in some cultures or religions. Therefore, it is important to have the ackground knowledge of the service user’s culture, beliefs and abilities. Different cultures have different approaches to eye contact, for examples in Asia and Africa extended eye contact can be taken as an insult or a challenge to authority. Similarly, in Arab culture only brief eye contact is permitted or seen appropriate between men and women (Scudder: 2014).

Some people who experience Autism avoid eye contact and it may cause anxiety and stress (Stewart: no date). SOLER model was used in the interaction with Mrs D, but with adjustments to suite her culture and beliefs. This helped to obtain Information egarding her wishes and future plans. She wanted to move with her son and showed her insight to arranging care after the move. Emotional intelligence and use of self also play a major role to create a rapport and build a relationship with service users (Trevithick 2012).

Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your emotions and emotions of others, ability to understand, regulate and analyse emotions in a relationship. Mrs D had recently moved from her daughter’s house to live with her son and now she is moving town. All these changes, in a very short period of time, had an emotional impact on her. She did not ant to be restricted with her choices and plans. She was assured that our aim was to ascertain that she was not being unfairly treated and enable her to make informed choices and give her information about accessing the services after the move.

As the service user and the carer perceived our involvement to be an interruption to their plans initially they were reluctant to interact and refused to engage. Communication and engagement with involuntary service users is challenging and requires acknowledging their circumstances and life experiences. People labelled as involuntary service users, often do not trust professionals. They often begin with a negative approach towards social workers; however a positive relationship with a worker or a constructive intervention can contribute to change their opinion.

The experience of intense emotions or the past connection with the services can be a factor for the people being sceptical of the services (Wilkinson et al: no date). The son presented this behaviour, which indicated that he did not trust social workers and may feel that our intervention was a threat to his authority and power. I felt this situation stemmed from the lack of relationship with the social worker. The current system and care management approach to he social work does not allow time to build relationship with the service users and their family.

A Lexicon of 80 social work skills and interventions’ (Trevithick: 2005) provides a good tool for social worker to enhance their communication, engagement and relationship based practice skills. The very first skill Trevithick lists is the ability to create a rapport, connection and relationship. Time is needed to build a relationship with service users and it is tough to find time when social workers have to work with a large number of cases and bureaucratic process. The above example illustrates that good communication skills re necessary to create rapport and minimise the distress caused to the service users and their carers.

Appropriate language was used to enhance communication, but at the same time lack of information provided prior to the commencement of face to face interaction caused some anxiety and trust issues with client and carer. Even though some difficulties were encountered during this interaction my professional approach was maintained throughout the visit to ensure the protection of the best interest of the service user. Trevithick (2012:15) also explains that creating a positive working relationship, through ommunication, is necessary but it should not be at the cost of working from sound knowledge and skill base.

At times workers have to make decision which may not be liked by the service user. In such situations priority should be the best interest of the service user. Social workers should also seek to enhance their knowledge and skills. This can be achieved by regular supervision and continuous professional training. Also Critical Reflection of practice gives you the opportunity to consider how your experience and observation shape your thinking and allows making plans for improvements.

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