General Communication Information
Communication is a Core Skill
The ability to communicate effectively is a core requirement as it’s the main the way social workers engage with their clients. Developing the different aspects of this valuable skill is a continuous process which we continually adapt to suit the changing context of the work. For example, how we communicate with adults, adolescents, children, colleagues or when we are in different professional settings.
Talking and Listening
The ability to communicate is a two-way process (talking and listening) and it’s probably the first thing we start to learn from a very early age which is the main way we convey information.
Reading and Writing
However, an important part of communication is having the ability to read and write and what is surprising is that children didn’t start to learn how to do this until 1880 when education became mandatory for children between 5 to 10 years old. Today the literacy rate in western cultures is around 95% to 99% but in some countries, it drops to around 25%.
Another important part of communication has been the recognition of ‘Non-Verbal Communication’. It seems the term was first used in 1956 but people were not really aware of it until around 1970 when academics like Michael Argyle started writing books about it. Today, social work organisations expect practitioners to use non-verbal communication to convey the values, ethics, and standards of the profession which includes physical appearance and conduct.
As time has passed, people refer to having communication skills and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) refers to being able to communicate with clarity, respect, empathy, sympathy, compassion, and confidence.
Professional Communication skills
Professional communication requires practitioners to use communication to conduct interviews, recognise emotional states, write reports, speak at meetings, build relationships and advocate on behalf of their clients.
Further Skill Development
As practitioner’s develop their skills even more, they will be able to recognise signs of different problems, deal with negative communication and challenging situations. Communication is also used to persuade, motivate, and encourage people to engage with the many different types of interventions or therapies which are often referred to as ‘Talking THerapies’.
Generally, as people grow up, they develop a reasonable ability to communicate with others but this does not mean that everyone is good at. This is important to remember because social workers often encounter vulnerable people who may have limited communication skills, can be reluctant to ask for help, are not accustomed to expressing their feelings and don’t always welcome the intrusion into their life.