It is important to observe an individual’s reactions when communicating with them as there may be visual cues about their understanding and feelings that they are unable or unwilling to verbalise. Being mindful of these reactions can help you to communicate effectively, demonstrate that you are are listening, keep the conversation flowing and prevent misunderstandings.
For example, if the individual is nodding whilst you are speaking, and clarifying what you say, it probably means that they are listening and attentive and you should continue. If the individual looks confused, it may indicate that they do not understand and you may need to rephrase what you are saying in different words. If they are avoiding eye contact and looking in the opposite direction it may mean that they don’t like what you are saying or aren’t interested, so you may need to try a different approach or try again later.
Some reactions may be related to the environment or the situation and have no bearing on what you are communicating at all. Therefore, it is important to do your best to make an individual as comfortable as possible before the conversation starts to ensure they are receptive as possible to what you are saying.
Environmental factors can include:
And situational factors can include:
- Unexpected meeting
- Conversing immediately after a behaviour
You may be able to identify the reasons for an individual’s discomfort by observing them during conversation. For example if they are shivering it could indicate that they are cold and you can offer them a blanket or turn the heating up. Or if they seem tired and unresponsive it may tell you that they should get some rest and the conversation should be rescheduled.
In summary, without observing the person you are communicating with, it will be very difficult to identify and remove barriers to the communication and tell whether they have understood you correctly.