In every aspect of life, at work and at home, our communication with those people around us influences and underpins our relationships with them, so developing positive attitudes and communication is essential to develop positive relationships. Getting to know people and showing interest in them and what they have to say is important to building respectful relationships. Remembering names, listening to what people have to say, being considerate of people and their views, all add up to positive relationship building.
We work with adults where effective communication and trust will ensure the safety and well-being of the children we are caring for. It is essential that any information regarding any child is passed to the correct person especially if there is any cause for concern. Communication with an adult may be verbal only, but if there is a genuine concern for an aspect of learning or social or personal safety of a child, it will be backed up by written evidence.
Discussions with our peers are important to build relationships of respect and trust. A teacher may have concerns about a child and might discuss this with her teaching assistant who may back up her concerns with her own observations. Being friendly and approachable will help encourage communication with children, young people and adults and always acting with honesty and fairness will develop positive relationships and respect.
Communicating with your peers at work is likely to be quite different to how you would communicate with them in a social situation. Whilst at work it is important to be professional, however that doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humour! Quite often the person you need to speak to isn’t available so it may be that you will have to leave them a note, either in their pigeon hole or on their desk, and then it can be discussed in more detail when you are both available.
We communicate in many different ways to many different people at work, we communicate with teachers about the children and what different resources are needed in the classroom, we communicate with parents sensitively about their children, we communicate with the office staff regarding stationary supplies and resources, we communicate with the kitchen staff regarding lunch and the caretaker regarding repairs that we may have observed that need attending to or some other instructions. All these communications are important to get the best results and each may be approached differently. It is important to understand the correct approach to ensure the most positive outcome in each situation.
Cultural differences may affect communication as misunderstandings can occur so it is important that when communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds you make yourself understood and be respectful of their culture.
When communicating with children it must be remembered that children do not have the same understanding as adults and will take everything as it is said and will not interpret signals or things unsaid or assumed. Not all children will understand humour, although some will, so it is important to speak clearly to children and maybe repeat what you have said. It is also a good idea to ask them to repeat back to you what you have said if it is important that they have understood you, this way there will be no room for confusion. Also, get down to their level; they will feel more comfortable talking to you and not so intimidated. The age of a child is important to take into consideration. Very young children may not respond to humour as they may not understand. However an older child may respond positively to humour as it can relax them. Always adapt your language to the age of the child and speak clearly.
The context of the communication may hugely influence how you might communicate. If the child has done something well or positive, just a big smile and thumbs up from across the classroom can communicate very effectively. Equally, a disapproving look and firm shake of the head may communicate across a classroom when a child has done something wrong. Tone of voice is important to portray your communication too. If what you are telling them is serious it must be delivered with a serious voice, equally praise should be delivered with an excited and happy tone and expression. In general communication with children, they respond best to happy, excitable voices, so unless the message is serious, that is the tone I think is best to stick with!
When communicating with children there are other things that may have to be taken into consideration. It may be that English is not their first language so extra care will be needed to ensure they have understood you. The child may have a sensory impairment, so you may have to speak facing them, slowly and clearly and using your hands where able. The child may have a speech, language or communication impairment so again you would have to speak to them in much the same way, speaking clearly and slowly and repeating instructions and asking them to repeat back to you so that you know they have understood instructions.
Their cognitive abilities may be poor so you may have to adapt your communication to take into account their concentration span and focus or coordination. Also, if a child is sad you must be sensitive to that and be reassuring and comforting. A child may be agitated or angry and then you must be calming. If a child has cultural differences those differences must be taken into account and treated respectfully.
Communication with adults may include body language and gestures that may go unobserved by children. Adults will also interpret nuances in tone of voice that children may not pick up on. Therefore it is more important to explain exactly what you are saying to children. You may not have to be as direct with adults.
When managing disagreements with children it is important that the child believes he/she is being listened to and treated fairly. When I’m dealing with playground disputes I always listen to both sides of the story and get the whole picture. We then talk it through and decide what would have been a better way of dealing with their conflict and either or both apologises and we have a clean slate and fresh start.
When dealing with disagreements between young people a similar approach can be taken but with a higher language level. Disputes may arise at work where adults have differing opinions; it is important to listen to an alternative point of view and consider where there is common ground. Talking things through thoroughly and being open to an alternative approach is vital. If there is total disagreement and no solution can be found then a manager or head teacher will have to be involved.