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Collaborative problem solving for community safety
Collaborative problem solving for community safety

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2.3 Understanding what is said, understanding what is meant

A more specific challenge can be linked to focusing too much on what is being said at the expense of what is actually being meant. The key to overcoming this is an understanding of ‘paralanguage’, defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology as ‘the non-verbal aspects of speech that convey information to listeners, including accent, loudness, pitch, rhythm, tempo, timbre’.

An additional element of paralanguage is body language, the non-verbal ways of communicating with nuanced movements and expressions used by a person while communicating. You will explore body language in more detail in Week 3.

By paying attention to the key elements of paralanguage and body language we can look behind the curtain of what is being said to better understand what is actually meant. This is particularly important when dealing with vulnerable people, especially those in volatile and abusive situations who may be afraid to state directly the challenges they are facing.