Task 2 group communication theories and an example from my experience.

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Task 2


I am a carer in a children’s home for children with learning disabilities, talking to a 14 year old child who has been living there for 2 months now about how they are finding it. The child I am speaking to has a minor speech disorder, and has low self-esteem when talking to people because of this. She is fairly submissive because I am an authority figure in the children’s home, therefore she may be apprehensive to tell me how she really feels. She is also a Muslim. The conversation will take place in the activities room while the other children are getting ready for their evening activities upstairs in their bedrooms.

Gerald Egan’s SOLER theory

Gerald Egan defines his SOLER theory as a part of his ‘skilled helper’ approach to counselling. It is a non-verbal listening process used in communication, and a key skill taught to counsellors as part of their training.

S: Sitting squarely to the person, preferably at a 5 O’clock position to avoid the possibility of staring. Sitting squarely to someone makes them feel like you are there with them and available to them. This is important as turning your body away from the person may lessen your degree of contact; however, it may be helpful to sit at a more angled position if sitting squarely to the person makes them feel threatened for any reason.

O:  Maintain an open position at all times. Crossing your arms or legs may appear as if you are being defensive to the other person, and is a sign of lessened involvement with the other person, whereas an open posture says that you are open and available to the other person and what they have to say.

L: Leaning in towards the client every now and again tells them you are interested in what they have to say, leaning back can mean the opposite. However, leaning too far forward may be seen as placing a demand on the client, and they may feel intimidated.

E: maintaining eye contact is another way of telling the person you are interested in them and you are with them, however eye contact is not the same as staring, so you must look away every so often so as not to stare. You must monitor the amount you look away though, as this could say something about your own level of comfort/discomfort.

R: Sitting relaxed should, in turn, make the client feel relaxed. If you sit nervously and fidgety it will distract the client, whereas being relaxed also expresses feelings of comfort and helps put the client at ease.

Gerald Egan’s SOLER theory makes communication more effective for both the patient, and the practitioner using the method in many ways. For example, in a counsellor's room with a counsellor and a patient who has been through a traumatic experience, The SOLER theory should make the patient who has been through a traumatic situation and needs counselling feel more open towards the counsellor; the open posture, signs of being genuinely interested and attentive listening should make the patient feel relaxed and as if they can speak without being judged and will be able to feel more positive about asking for help if they feel that they will be able to receive it in a non-judgemental and productive manner. If the patient is able to be open and develop a positive and meaningful relationship, this in turn makes it easier for the counsellor to understand and effectively address the needs of the patient, it will mean they can ask the patient to elaborate on any concerns they have, meaning they can review care plans more efficiently, and be of better help to the patient.

A strength of this theory is that it can be easily learnt and applied to many situations across the health and social care settings, such as counselling, in a doctor’s surgery or hospital, in a care home etc, as it is so general, and not just focussed on one area of health and social care. It can be very valuable when trying to help another person and should make them feel cared for, respected, and understood. The SOLER theory can also be learned by anyone who wishes to become a better listener.

Argyle’s Communication Cycle

This is a commonly used theory of communication. It was first developed in 1965 by Charles Berner, and then modified by Michael Argyle, a social psychologist, in 1972. The communication cycle is the path which one takes when they decide to communicate with someone else. First, the idea (of the conversation) occurs, next, the message is coded, meaning the person is thinking about how to say the idea, and what method of communication they will use (verbal, sign language, email etc). Third, the message is sent: the person says/signs/writes the message they wish to send the other person. Message received: the recipient receives your message, and then the message is decoded, meaning the other person has interpreted what you have said. If the message is understood, then you have communicated effectively and the person understands what you have said. You can see this by the other person responding or giving feedback to what you have said.

Michael Argyle’s communication cycle is a good base idea for practitioners to always refer back to of how to communicate. It is simple and can be applied to most communication situations easily. It makes communication more effective as it allows the practitioner to think before they speak, and think about how they are going to say it, so that the other person will interpret it the way they intended it to be interpreted, and is not misunderstood or taken the wrong way. It also shows reflective listening. However, the other person may not decode the message in the way it is intended to be, therefore leading to misunderstanding, so Argyle’s communication cycle needs to be a two-way process to be effective.

Michael Argyle’s communication cycle would be very suitable in lots of health and social care settings, as it is very general. For example it could be used in a hospital, where a female nurse is breaking some bad news to a child who is about 12 years old about their parent who has just been diagnosed terminally ill.

First step – ideas occur: The nurse would plan before speaking to the child about what they want to say. They will think about what language the child speaks, for example if English is not their first language they may need to get a translator. She will have to decide a place and time to tell the child as well.

Second step – message coded: The nurse will have to decide how to speak to the child, and take into consideration the child’s age, for example if the language they use is too formal, the child may not understand what is being said to them, but if she uses too much informal language the child may not understand the seriousness of the situation. The nurse’s tone of voice cannot be too harsh or the child will feel scared and upset. The tone of voice must be calm and gentle to make the child feel like they are comfortable and supported. The nurse must also be careful in how they word things as they don’t want to make the child feel that they are to blame or that they have done anything wrong, but they will still need to explain to the child what is going on, not just that their parent is going to die, however not in too much detail and this may confuse and scare the child.

Third step – message sent: The nurse tells the child what she has to say. She has to ensure that she has transferred the information clearly so that the child understands and takes it in properly and effectively. The nurse’s body language must be open and the nurse must make eye contact, but not too much that the child feels intimidated. The nurse may put her arm round the child to make them feel comforted and as if they are not alone and the nurse is there for them.

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Fourth step - Message received: The child has taken in the information and may react to the news in an upset, confused or angry way. The nurse must show empathy to the child so they can understand why the child is reacting the way they are. The child may have many questions and so the nurse must show through body language, such as sitting openly and leaving silences for the child to think about what they have just been told, that they are ready to answer any questions the child has.

Fifth step – Message decoded: The child ...

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