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  7. Demonstrate ways to overcome barriers to communication

Demonstrate ways to overcome barriers to communication

In the previous section, we identified several barriers to communication. Here, we will demonstrate ways to overcome them.

  • Language – Learning one another’s language is a long-term option, however, in the short term, it may be necessary to employ the services of an interpreter or translator
  • Accents/dialects – You should always try to speak clearly and reduce the nuances of your accent as much as possible
  • Slang/jargon/long words – You should avoid slang, jargon and difficult words unless you are sure that the individual will understand them. The words that you use should be tailored to the individual with whom you are speaking. For example, you may use acronyms (e.g. DoLS) with your colleagues because they will understand what it means but you need to provide further explanation to the family member of an individual receiving care services
  • Environmental – Where possible, communication should take place in a comfortable environment. Background noise should be reduced (e.g. closing a window if there are roadworks outside). The temperature should be regulated with a thermostat and lighting should not be too bright or too dim. Again, you should tailor the environment to the individual to facilitate effective communication (e.g. if an individual has autism and is sensitive to light, you may want to dim the lights a little).
  • Basic needs – You may ask an individual about their comfort and offer to get them a drink or a biscuit before communication begins. If an individual is unable to interact due to tiredness, you may suggest rescheduling the meeting.
  • Social – It will be useful to have some understanding of an individual’s background and culture as well as a general understanding of different cultures. You may facilitate attendance by offering to pick an individual up or holding the meeting in their home.
  • Physical/geographical – Technology such as phones and computers can aid communication between individuals that are separated by distance. Removing physical barriers or suggesting a different location for the conversation could be used to overcome physical barriers.
  • Health conditions – The way you communicate with an individual should be tailored to their needs and, for individuals receiving care, you will need to be familiar with the communication section of their care plan. For example, you may need to keep sentences short and only contain 2-3 keywords when communicating with an individual with a learning disability, as well as giving them additional time to process information. Referrals to other professionals, such as speech and language therapists, may be beneficial.
  • Emotional – If an individual is in a heightened state of emotion, you may need to provide compassion, empathy and reassurance to help them return to their baseline. You may also suggest accompanying them to a quiet and private area to communicate. It may also be necessary to reschedule the communication to a time when the individual is better able to communicate.

Example question and answer

Identify three examples of barriers to communication and explain how you could overcome each barrier.

A good social care worker knows that effective communication is a very important part of the job and understands that methods of communication used should be tailored to the individual. The table below lists three examples of barriers to communication and how they may be overcome.

BarrierHow it can be overcome
1. LanguageIf two individual’s do not share a common language, communication can be difficult as they will not be able to understand one another. A rudimentary form of communication can be utilised by using signs, gestures and/or pictures, however a better solution would be to employ the services of a translator or interpreter who is conversant in both languages. Over the long term, one or both individuals could learn the other’s language.
2. Stress/AgitationIt can be difficult to communicate with an individual if they are feeling stressed or upset. In a heightened state of mind it is difficult for anyone to concentrate or hold a conversation, so the primary objective will be to help them return to their baseline. This can be done in a number of ways dependent on the individual. Examples include giving them time and space to calm down on their own, showing them empathy and compassion or offering solutions to their problem. Once the individual is in a calm state, the barrier will be lifted and communication can continue.
3. Sensory Impairment (e.g. deaf, blind, non-verbal)If an individual has a sensory impairment, communication difficulties can be overcome in a variety of ways. Deaf people may use a hearing aid to hear, use sign language or be able to lip read. It is also important to try to avoid an unnecessary background noise. Blind people are still able to speak and listen and can read using Braille. Non-verbal individuals may use writing, pictures, signs and/or gestures to communicate.

This is not a definitive list. Other barriers to communication might include:

  • Shyness: A shy individual may be very anxious about talking to other people, especially those they do not know well. This could be overcome by ensuring the individual is in a comfortable and (ideally) familiar environment, having people with them that they know and trust and working with the individual over the long-term to build trust.
  • Vocabulary: Use of long words or technical jargon may confuse individuals who are not familiar with the vocabulary. This can be overcome by using plain simple language and keeping sentences short.
  • Location: Perhaps the most obvious barrier of communication is the location of the two parties. There may be a long distance that makes meeting face-to-face impractical. Technology such as telephones and the Internet may be used to overcome this.
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