Communication is not only about what you say but also what others hear. As a psychologist, we need to take care of what we say and how we say it. It is important to communicate clearly as it gives our clients directions and helps them make decisions about something they are concerned about.
Communication includes two important aspects, listening and talking. Being able to listen and understand what the other person has to say is equally as important as talking. There are few points that we need to keep in mind to help us listen and talk effectively. They are as follows:
Be attentive and warm while listening: Listening is a skill that is necessary to initiate and carry on a conversation. Be attentive and listen to what others are saying. Don’t be in a hurry to reply and avoid thinking about what you will speak because that will lose your focus from listening.
Show that you are listening carefully: When you don’t show interest in the conversation, the person who is talking will also lose interest and will not be keen on communicating. Keep your body posture open, make good eye contact, nod occasionally, and reflect back by turning the statement into small questions.
Check your understanding of what others are saying: Long talk gets boring after some time. As a psychologist, you need to be careful about this as your clients might be sharing important events or history with you. To avoid losing focus on what the client is saying, rephrase client’s sentence to clarify what they are saying, ask questions, and show empathy when needed.
Be slow with judgments: It is very easy to judge the client for his/her thoughts and feelings. As a psychologist, it is important to understand that your judgments will impact your client’s life and might destroy your relationship with the client. Any feedback or suggestion must be carefully thought of and put forward in the manner that does not upset your client.
Use the silence tool appropriately: Being a psychologist, it is very important that we use our silence tool appropriately. Some events that our clients share can be unpleasant and it is important that we don’t react to it negatively. In such cases, silence could be very useful as it assures the client that it is ok to continue sharing and you’re listening without any judgment. This can help them be more comfortable.
Convey your message effectively: When you are talking, it is important to be clear and concise. If the listener is unable to understand what you are saying, he/she might get confused or might lose interest. Your thoughts should be clear in your mind first before you communicate it to the listener.
Use clear and unambiguous language: Avoid long or complex sentences. Your clients come to you to share and get guidance. A long speech with complex words might lead to confusion or the client might lose interest. Ensure that when you speak, your language is clear and you use simple sentences. Allow the client to digest the information and ensure you find out if they have understood what was told by asking questions.
Use non-verbal methods to communicate: Your body posture, expressions, gesture, etc are another way to communicate. Using non-verbal gesture such as leaning forward, nodding, making eye-contact will help your client feel that you are listening, comprehending and understanding what is being said. One should be careful while using such gesture because if your gestures are quite expressive, the client might get distracted and not pay attention to what is being said.
Use repetition: People tend to recall mostly the beginning and the ending of what is being said. Make sure you repeat what is important. Keeping what you say short and asking questions is also important to ensure the client has understood the important points.
Recap what is being said: A session is about 60 minutes and a lot tends to get conveyed. It is important that all the important point are summarized in brief. Asking questions to the client is important to ensure that he/she has comprehended the important information well. In the next session, a recap of the previous session is also important to ensure that the client is clear.
As a psychologist it’s important we are open to further and next communication as per client’s comfort. Always important to remember that client’s trust your words; thus your language, as well as content, should be professional and non-judgemental.