Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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Caring for adults

1.2 How do things go wrong?

There are lots of ways in which things can go wrong with verbal communication. Listed below are just a few of them.

  • Maybe the person doesn’t understand what you mean.
  • They may misinterpret what you have said.
  • They don’t hear correctly.
  • You may have given too many instructions at once.
  • You chose the wrong time or place to have a difficult conversation.
  • The information may have been confusing.
  • The other person may not speak the same language as you.

Have you ever had to deal with some of the situations shown in Figure 2?

Described image
(a) Everybody talking at once
Described image
(b) Trying to reason with someone who doesn’t want to listen to you
Described image
(c) Talking to someone whose attention is elsewhere (e.g. texting or fiddling with things)
Described image
(d) Someone who won’t turn around to look at you while you are talking
Described image
(e) Trying to understand someone with no verbal communication
Described image
(f) People rolling their eyes or sighing/tutting when you ask them for something, even though they do what you ask

Figure 2 How verbal communication can go wrong

We give messages we aren’t aware of with our body language, especially if the other person has limited understanding of the language being spoken. So you need to take extra care to choose the right time and place, and to give people time to process information. If you keep repeating things because someone with limited understanding hasn’t responded quickly, the process often has to start again.

In the next activity you will see how confusion can arise if our words do not always match the other messages we are giving with our body language and facial expressions.

Activity 5

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Read the case study and then answer the questions that follow.

Case study: Rosie

Rosie lives in a supported living unit with five other people with learning disabilities. They are supported by a team of staff. Rosie is able to verbally communicate her needs and emotions clearly, but some staff see her as being very demanding and are not always happy to work with her.

Verbally the staff are always pleasant to Rosie, saying all the right things. But their non-verbal communication gives a different message. For example, Rosie asks for her third drink of the morning. Pam, who is trying to watch a programme on television, says ‘Yes, sure Rosie, coming right up’ but when she says it, she sighs and rolls her eyes. She brings back Rosie’s tea and smiles, puts it down muttering ‘What did your last slave die of?’ and walks away, without waiting for any further comment from Rosie.

  • If you were Rosie, how would you feel about this incident, and why?
  • If you were another member of the team, what would you say to Pam?
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Comment

Rosie probably feels that Pam doesn’t like her very much because she has seen Pam’s facial expressions and heard her muttered comments. She is confused because Pam is still smiling and getting her what she asks for.

Another member of the team might speak to Pam because her treatment of Rosie is unfair. If Pam thinks Rosie is being demanding, Pam needs to discuss this with the rest of the team and they should agree on coping strategies for those staff who find Rosie difficult to deal with.

It is all too easy to get into bad habits when it comes to communicating, as the next activity will show you.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Look at the following video and think about the way these staff members are behaving, and how it could be done differently.

Download this video clip.Video player: Bit of sugar, love?
Skip transcript: Bit of sugar, love?

Transcript: Bit of sugar, love?

Bit of sugar, love?

PAT
Oh, you’re back.
ANN
Oh, yes. I came back yesterday.
PAT
Did you have a good holiday?
ANN
Oh, yes. We had sunshine every day.
PAT
Fantastic.
ANN
It was really good.
PAT
And then you come back to this –
TIM
Excuse me, Pat?
PAT
Yeah?
TIM
Could you put me cup a bit closer, please? It’s too far away.
PAT
Oh. There you are.
TIM
Sorry.
ANN
Yes. I’ve got tickets to see ‘Bridget Jones II’.
PAT
Oh, excellent. Yes.
ANN
Yeah, because I enjoyed the first one so much.
PAT
Yes. Yes.
ANN
And Colin Firth –
PAT
Well.
ANN
I mean, you can watch him every day, can’t you?
PAT
Yeah. I wouldn’t have thought it’s quite up John’s street though.
ANN
What do you think he’d like?
PAT
Well, he likes his football, doesn’t he?
ANN
Oh, I’m not going to football. I see enough of that on the telly.
PAT
Watching that, yeah.
ANN
And if he doesn’t like the film, well, it’s a day out anyway. It’s a change of scene.
PAT
Yeah. Yeah.
ANN
So it’ll just have to wait.
PAT
Get him out.
ANN
I’ll enjoy it.
PAT
Yeah.
ANN
A bit of sugar, love? There you go.
End transcript: Bit of sugar, love?
Bit of sugar, love?
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  • Write down three things you would do differently.
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Comment

The staff are having a conversation over the cared-for person rather than involving him in the conversation. They are also not focusing on their task, which is to help him with his breakfast. They should have focused on ensuring that he was able to reach his drink. When supporting him with his food, the staff should ask how he prefers his food and wait for his response, and ensure that he is happy with the way the food is given to him.

You may want to take some time outside of this course to consider when your communication has been misunderstood, and what steps you could have taken to eliminate misunderstanding.

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