As carers we often have a million things flying around our head; the shopping, the hospital appointments, the managing anxiety of your loved one and yourself, the dealing with people who say 'you need to take time for yourself' when how on earth can you do that, and the liaising with numerous professionals in health and social care that just don't listen! The list goes on and on....
It's super important that as carers we take time to actually think about what we are going to say and how we say it to professionals. Often we have waited for this appointment for a long time or someone visits us in our home and it seemed to be over so quickly. We are often ill prepared, full of anger or confusion and the appointment passes and we didn't get the outcome that we hoped for.
When talking with professionals, it's key that you keep the conversation as clear and as clean as possible. What do we mean by that? Well often our words and body language are filtered through past hurts, assuming a negative outcome or loss of faith in the system. These emotional wounds are justified of course but we have to see every conversation as a fresh start, even if it feels like groundhog day.
So here are 5 tips to keep the conversation as clear and clean as possible:
1. Be curious
If you really don't understand what the person is saying then ask things like 'In what way....'. For example 'In what way do you think I can cope without any additional support?' Don't be aggressive or passive aggressive but be generally curious. Ask open questions and, with body language, be genuinely interested in what they are really trying to say. It then allows them to reflect on the statements themselves without feeling judged. This also means you are not assuming you know what the person is saying without clarifying further.
Show you are listening to the other person by saying little words like 'I see,' 'oh right,' 'uh ha', those little moments when you nod your head. Often people don't show they are listening and the other person feels ignored and not respected. It also helps to build rapport and builds a connection between the two of you.
3.Avoid generalisations, deletions and distortions
This is key. We often don't realise that we filter our perceptions through various past experiences that make us feel like we know what the other person is trying to say. It felt like this before so therefore it will have the same, often negative, output as that time! We often over generalise, 'Oh I know this, they always turn up late and spend the whole time looking at their phone'. We can often delete important information too. 'Oh it was like that time when I was driving home from that place, you know when she was in a funny mood'. There are too many unspecific statements here that are deleting the actual who, what, when, how of what you are trying to get across. The last point is around distortions. 'She makes me feel stupid' or 'don't make me laugh'. Again, it's too vague and leaves the receiver of your message confused and irritated.
4.Don’t be rejection confused
We are just not good at saying 'no'. We often feel terrible for asserting our needs. Especially as carers, we are so used to always saying 'yes' and putting someone else's needs above our own. But when speaking with professionals, we can say 'no' without getting all muddled up. There are so many ways of saying 'no.' You can say the direct 'no' which is a 'no, no thank you'. Or the inquisitive 'no', 'no I don't think so, what but we could try another approach?'. Or the broken record 'no' when someone keeps asking the same thing; you can keep changing it up but keep it clean, non aggressive and firm- 'no, thank you', 'no I don't think that will work', 'sorry but no it just doesn't feel right.' Keep repeating it in different but similar ways without raising your voice.
5.Repeat back what you heard
The last point is at the end of the conversation repeat back exactly what you have heard. Don't paraphrase it, but repeat as much as you can in their own words. 'So let me just summarise what we have agreed here. You said that you will speak to the case manager and get my husband's case presented at the safeguarding board next week. You will then liaise with the social work team and reassess his needs in light of our recent consultation letter which you will take with you now and then call me next Tuesday to arrange our action plan. Is that correct?' You can also do this as you go along. It means you have both clarified and agreed all points before you leave and that there is no assuming what was agreed.
Not A Care in the World Resilience Training
At Not A Care in the World resilience training we know first hand what it takes to be the super human that carers need to be. If you are a carers organisation and are interested in knowing more about our work in communication skills for carers but also in our work on unlocking creativity, building confidence and also practising self care techniques then please do get in touch. Our workshops can now all be adapted for online working meaning we can work with any carers organisation throughout the world! Our workshops are dynamic, interactive, fun, creative and empowering and are facilitated by trainers trained in communication skills, NLP, psychotherapy, breathwork and theatre.