Communication is a two-way process. Therefore, a conversation partners’ role is essential in order to facilitate conversation and maximise the potential of the person with a communication difficulty.
Below are some general considerations that you may find useful as a conversation partner:
- Think about the ENVIRONMENT:
- Try to minimise background noise and reduce distractions
- Give the person your full attention
- Have access to pen and paper, communication aids and any ‘ramps’ these are items that facilitate individuals during discussions (e.g. calendar, TV guide, photographs, maps etc)
- Think about YOUR COMMUNICATION:
- Use short sentences and keep language simple.
- Write down key words.
- Don’t rush – Allow plenty of time to process information and to respond.
- Repeat and rephrase information as needed to ensure full understanding.
- Use closed questions (yes / no) and provide options for them to choose between (these can be verbal, written or objects).
- Start off with broad topics and then narrow this down further (e.g. “Would you like a drink?” - “Would you like a hot or cold drink?” - “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”).
- Think about how to help them with their EXPRESSION:
- Clarify and rephrase what you have understood to check that it is correct.
- Check the broad topic that you are talking about to ensure that you are both talking about the same area.
- Ask targeted questions relevant to the topic (e.g. “What does it look like?”).
- Be aware of non-verbal communication (e.g. facial expression, gesture) and encourage the use of total communication, such as miming, pointing, and drawing.
It is also important to be aware of variability in communication as it can be impacted by many factors such as: tiredness, emotion (e.g. being upset, angry or frustrated) and illness, particularly for individuals with communication difficulties.
If you or the person you are communicating with start getting frustrated, it can be helpful to agree to stop and re-try the conversation / topic later when it might be more successful.
For more information and training opportunities, please look at the communication training tab or liaise directly with your Speech and Language Therapist.