Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Applying your community engagement skills
Applying your community engagement skills

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5 Sure, I know how to talk to people

After several months of hard work by all community stakeholders, the local residents’ association has called a meeting to discuss progress on key initiatives. They are keen to get some updates from the police on developments in recent months, steps the police have taken to combat anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood and plans for the coming months.

The meeting is open to all interested members of the local community and it is expected that there will be a strong turnout. This will likely include representatives from a range of community organisations, each with their own perspective on the challenges faced and potential solutions.

Described image
Figure 6 Anti-social behaviour can take many forms

In your role as community liaison, you have been asked to lead the presentation for the police and to respond to any questions which might emerge.

You know the data and you’re comfortable talking about statistics and specific measures taken by the police. However, you are conscious that you will need to tailor your presentation to meet the needs of the audience and to ensure that your key points are communicated effectively.

Activity 5 Adaptive and maladaptive behaviours

In Sure, I know how to talk to people! [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , you learned about the Interpersonal Circle.

Revisit your learnings from that course and note down some examples of adaptive and maladaptive behaviours you might expect to encounter at a community meeting.

Using the insights from the interpersonal circle, make some brief notes on how you might respond to those behaviours.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

As discussed in Sure, I know how to talk to people! the interpersonal circle – also known as the interpersonal circumplex or interpersonal wheel – is a psychological tool that helps explain why we experience various reactions when engaging with people.

Interpersonal plotting tool

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

While it is important to think about various adaptive and maladaptive behaviours and your responses to them, the real value of the interpersonal circle is felt when you are able to consider how you might response to real people in real situations. The following activity asks you to do just that.

Activity 6 Reflecting on the needs of the community

Drawing on the challenges outlined both in the main scenario and above, your task is to reflect on the communication needs of three members of the local community. Specifically:

  • A public representative
  • A concerned parent with young children who often play in the wasteland area
  • An elderly resident who is nervous to walk to the shop to pick up necessary food items.

For each you should make some notes on:

  • Their preferred mode of communication.
  • How you might need to tailor a message to their particular needs.
  • What barriers to communication might you expect to encounter.
  • The steps you might take to overcome these.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


In undertaking this activity you will inevitably find both consistent themes and vital differences between your approach to communicating with different people. These will likely be driven by your relationship to that person as well as by an understanding of their communication needs. Ultimately, successful communication relies on engaging with and understanding others, so taking the time to do so is key.