As SLPs, we know a lot about communication. We know about articulating correctly, speaking smoothly, using grammar skills, vocabulary, voice volume, social cues, and the list goes on. BUT does that always make us good communicators? Not necessarily. We’ve got to actually use that knowledge and put it into practice. 🙂
Today, I’m going to let you in on how I practice in real life what I preach to my students, and specifically how I practice it at WORK.
We know that communication is more than just words. It’s facial expressions and body language and tones of voice. This is why I like to have face-to-face conversations with my coworkers whenever possible.
In today’s world of texting and emails that’s not typically the norm nor is it always doable. However, I try to make a point to walk over to teacher’s classroom if I need her to explain something or go into my facilitator’s office if I want to collaborate about a student. Being able to see others’ faces and body language usually helps eliminate misunderstandings and confusion a little easier than sent messages. That’s not to say that people won’t ever misunderstand you…it just helps to lessen it.
We teach our students with social language disorders how to read facial expressions and stay on topic. We tell them you have to watch other people’s reactions and judge if they seem interested in what we are saying.
If I walk into a coworker’s room and she’s busily typing, not looking at me while I’m speaking, and saying “uh huh” a lot, I can probably judge that it’s not a good time to have a conversation. If I’m trying to explain the different types of language disorders and ways to address a student’s issues to another teacher, I often try to watch her face to make sure she’s getting what I’m saying. The same technique goes for parents as well as my students when I’m working with them. *Disclaimer: Some people are better at faking interest and understanding than others, so be aware. Lol.
If you are in the education field, you’ll probably find out pretty quickly that people learn differently. Some students learn visually, others learn with a model, others learn by doing, etc. We get this with our students, but sometimes it’s easier to forget when it comes to adults. When I try to explain therapy techniques to parents or make suggestions to teachers, sometimes they really appreciate it if I offer to model the strategy. Other times they get insulted if I even suggest a change. I try to approach topics like that very humbly from a I’m-just-trying-to-help-if-you-want-it standpoint. And if I know that a teacher is resistant, I’ll tread carefully. For example, I might just use the strategy with the student in front of the teacher to show that it’s effective. Then it’s up to them to try it and use it. (P.S. Don’t tell my teacher friends I’m telling you all this). 😉
I’m always trying to teach my students problem solving skills. When I walk my preschoolers to the classroom I purposefully let them attempt to open the locked door. They push and pull and then stare at me. I hold my arms up and say, “What’s the problem?” If they aren’t too delayed they’ll say, “It’s locked.” Then I’ll say, “Oh no, what are we going to do?” I watch their little wheels spinning until they finally say, “We need to get a key!” (Sometimes I need to scaffold this process of course). There are times that I need to remind myself that I need to be more solution-minded. Instead of being sucked up into a vent fest over the problems in our education system or the overwhelming amounts of paperwork I have to do, I need to get creative and spin my wheels on how I can make things work for me. Instead of complaining that something is too much work (like the kids do so often), I need to think of ways to lighten my load. Now there is definitely a time and place for venting…I’m just trying not to let it overwhelm my thoughts.
Do you ever silently diagnose other people’s communication while they speak? I think it’s the curse of the SLP. I can’t not do it. Haha.
Though it’s easy to recognize someone else’s communication issues, it’s also important for me to recognize my own. I try to take a glance inward and see where I can improve my own communication skills and take the strategies I know so well and put them into practice. For example, I know that I talk fast and stumble over my words more when I get nervous. So if I’m in an IEP meeting and feeling a little nervous talking to the parent, I try to use some fluency strategies that I teach my students (like pausing and slow rate). Or sometimes I might interrupt when I get excited about a thought. I know this is an “unexpected” behavior and can cause others to think negative thoughts about me. So I try to be aware of this and avoid doing that, or immediately apologize if I slip up.
Again, I know that this is probably not anything new to you. It’s just always good to be reminded of ways that we can use our own communication super powers for good in our daily lives. What do you think? Do you ever find yourself needing to practice what you preach??