As a professional working in the field of Human Services, having specific helping skills are vital to the effectiveness of the services as well as the goals of the client. There are many elements that support both verbal and non-verbal communication. Contrary to the supportive elements that determine success, there are also a wide range of barriers that both the helper and the client may face. It is important for the helper to attend to several duties before meeting with a client such as completing appropriate forms or paperwork in order to gain as much information about the client as possible. The helper must also set up a comfortable environment for the client as the helping process can be intimidating which may hinder success. In addition to the duties of the helper prior to the initial meeting with a client, the helper must keep in mind effective questions that will guide them through the helping process.
Specific Helping Skills that can be used with clients
Everyone at some point in their life experiences problems. Although problems are a normal part of life, each individual experiences things at different levels. Some people are able to work through things quickly, efficiently, and effective. Other people may experience problems for longer periods of time or even for a life-time. Through these difficulties some may require assistance working through their troubles. When a helper is involved with a client, communication is the key to success. The most specific skill a helper can have with their client is effective communication which entails both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication
Verbal Communication is a helpful behavior to posses while communicating with a client as the helper must first determine what the problem is, and what the specific needs are. These questions are not easily answered if there is a lot of miscommunication and confusion on either side of the helping process. The job of the helper through verbal communication is to mirror the thoughts of the client in order to better understand the client’s thought process. This is helpful for both the helper and the client. For the helper, verbal communication helps to indentify either direct or indirect thoughts and feelings the client is trying to express. For the client, verbal communication helps them to better understand what they are truly feeling and thinking or expressing as well as give them a better understanding to the responsibility they have.
The helper is to use paraphrasing or reiterating without speaking the thoughts or feelings for the client. At times it may be necessary for the helper to ask open ended questions that provide better understanding to establish services. Open-ended questions such as, “How exactly did the fight between the two of you start?” are important open-ended questions to ask because it lets the helper gather background information that may have been left out. It is best for the helper not to establish feelings in open-ended questions when speaking with a client such as, “I bet that made you angry, huh?” so these types of open-ended questions are best avoided. Also, when speaking with clients, the helper should try to avoid closed-ended question that are simply answered with a “yes” or “no” answer.
For example, it would better to ask an open-ended question about how someone is feeling verse a close-ended question like, “Are you feeling better today?” As you can see, asking an open-ended question provides for better understanding of the client’s true thought process and needs. Most all of the communication communicated between a sender and a receiver is in response to non-verbal communication. Body language, posture, facial expressions, gestures, paralinguistic’s, eye contact, haptics, proxemics, and even a person’s appearance can all be defined as forms of non-verbal communication. These unspoken forms of communication and behaviors are subtle signals that most people are not even aware that they are sending to a receiver. Facial expressions are the most common form of non-verbal communication because a grimace or a smile can speak for the sender’s thoughts even before they verbally express them.
Also, facial expressions are the most easily translated non-verbal communication signals as signs of happiness, sadness, and anger are express through the face the same. Eye contact, like facial expressions, is considered an important form of non-verbal communication. Looking at someone in the eyes can determine a level of interest, a sense of hostility, and even emotions. Speaking with ones hands, or better known as gestures, is another form of non-verbal communication. Waving or pointing in a direction can express a “hello” or direction without using verbal communication. Body language and posture movements can present a great deal of information about attitudes and feelings. Contrary, if a receiver is not focused on a sender’s posture and movements then body language may be less definitive in conveying a message being sent. Subtle postures such as arm-crossing, or leg-crossing, are just a few signs of body language.
Proxemics and haptics are both forms of non-verbal communication that involve personal space and touch. Proxemics are the measures that a person views as their personal space when speaking to a person or a group. Haptics are a form of communication through touch. Infants are able to establish their care taker is communicating affection, and other emotions, through touch. Pitch, tone of voice, and the level at which one speaks is defined as paralinguistic’s.
Paralinguistic’s are a good indicator of the meaning behind a message a sender is verbally trying to send. A sender may use a certain set of words to verbally express thoughts or feelings, but paralinguistic’s are a separate form of communication that is non-verbal. Appearance is the most audible form of non-verbal communication. How a person dresses, the colors they wear, or their hairstyle, can make the first impression that is the judgment one will pass based off of an initial appearance. An appearance may speak for the individual long before verbal communication ever takes place.
There are a number of non-verbal barriers that can present problems when communicating. Developmental disorders and brain dysfunction is just one area that may present problems for the helper. For example, autistic individuals may often times not be able to speak for themselves, and when an interpreter must step in to speak on behalf of the individual, communication may become difficult in the success of reaching the client’s needs. Cultural barriers are another form of a non-verbal barrier. Eye contact, gestures, the need for personal space, touch, and appearance, are just a few cultural differences that create cultural barriers. An individual may feel intimidated or uncomfortable sitting within close proximity of a helper when they feel their personal space is being invaded.
Deceptive gestures can create miscommunication as well. This form of non-verbal communication barrier can host a number of problems for an individual who is not skilled in other areas of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, when they convey a message that may not be accurately presented. Deceptive gestures are not always communicated due to deception, but may be forms of nervousness, tension, or a number of other emotional states.
Non-verbal barriers should be taken in to account when communicating with individuals as they may hinder the success of a client if they are overlooked or go un-noticed. The most specific skill the helper can posses when serving the needs of a client, or group of people, is to have effective communication. Both verbal communication and non-verbal communication are skills that can be acquired and involve knowledge and experience. The success of the client’s goals depends on effective communication between the sender and the receiver.