To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. – Tony Robbins
One of the biggest frustrations for primary family caregivers is not getting the support they desire from other family members when they need it. When support requests are not acknowledged, caregivers may personalize it and build up resentment with the family members who do not play an active role in caring for loved ones.
There could be a variety of reasons why primary caregiver requests do not yield the level of responsiveness that is desired. The culprit is typically the use of ineffective communication by the primary caregiver.
As Tony Robbins insightfully shares in the quotation above, we all perceive the world through a personal lens. This means that we must carefully consider not just the “what” or content of our communication. We must also consider the “how” for effective communication.
Clarity and active listening are the two of the most important foundational variables to master the “how” for effective communication among parties, especially for members of caregiving families.
When you are communicating ideas, information, and requests, it is important to be prepared and clear in your presentation. Know exactly what you are trying to communicate. Gather information in advance and have your ideas organized logically.
It is equally important to actively listen to the other party once you share your information. This key to active listening means not interrupting or judging the person when she/he is talking and sharing their beliefs and thoughts.
Here are seven suggested steps for the primary caregiver to take when she/he has something important to share.
- Place your thoughts on a piece of notepaper. Having this information at your fingertips to refer to can ensure you get all the information out that you want. It is so easy to forget things when you are in the midst of a conversation that may feel uncomfortable. This is understandable because it is not easy to share some of the difficult information during the caregiving journey.
- Set up an in-person get together with the other party if you live close together. Or, meet via a video call. Face-to face conversation permits non-verbal communication such as head nods and smiles that can keep the dialogue flowing. It can also give cues as to when the other person may be confused and more clarity is needed.
- Begin the chat by thanking the other person(s) for giving you an opportunity to share your thoughts and needs. Conveying gratitude provides a nice way to start a conversation.
- Focus on the here and now. Try to avoid talking about the past. Look at this new interaction as a clean slate with possibility.
- Try not to ramble. Keep your message precise and specific to the information shared or request at hand.
- After you share your information, be patient to allow the person to process what you have shared. Some people require a little more time to think about what has been said before responding.
- Actively listen to what the other person has to say in response. Be sure not to interrupt even if you do not agree with what is being said. This is the key to stop your judgment from flowing into the dialogue which can block any chance of gaining buy-in and support.
Once the other person fully shares a response, add your thoughts. Start by acknowledging something you agree with to keep the conversation moving forward.
If you are seeking support from the other party be sure to provide a selection of choices so the person can determine how she/he can best contribute. Buy-in is more easily achieved when someone can choose a way to contribute rather than being directed or told what to do.
Go forth with effective communication, fellow caregiver.