The role of communication and interpersonal interaction in Health and Social Care

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Nathan Randle.                Developing effective communication skills

                In Health and Social care, Level 3

The role of communication and interpersonal interaction in Health and Social Care.


Health and social care work is not just about meeting a service user’s physical needs; it is also about the service user’s quality of life, and maintaining a good quality. Care workers need effective communication skills in order to pass on information to clients, service users and cross-departments.Health care professionals also need to form relationships with both their service users and their friends and family where applicable. This is so that both service user and family can trust the health worker, which reassures them that the service user will be taken care of correctly.

There are several different types of effective interpersonal communication. Firstly is non-verbal communication. Usually we can immediately tell how an individual is feeling, whether it is happy, sad, angry or upset etc., even before the individual has said anything. We do this by observing a person’s body language, for example, in the conversation I observed in the attached logbook, person A was slouched towards the desk, with his head in his arms, as if sleeping, or hiding one’s face. From this I could tell that the individual was tired or bored, as if he was not bored, or tired, he would most likely have his head up.

There are several areas of body language which send across the non-verbal forms of communication. Firstly are the eyes. The eyes give away a lot of information on someone’s emotions. When we are sad, we tend to look down towards the ground, but when we are excited or interested in something/someone, our eyes tend to widen and are open more. For example, if a patient looks a doctor with squinted eyes, it may come across as the patient is giving the doctor a ‘dirty look’ which shows disrespect and the thought that the patient does not agree with the Doctor.

Secondly is the face; as we can easily tell how someone is feeling. A person with wide, eyes, and a big smile, Is often happy, or joyful. Whereas a person with a ‘scrunched up’ face, is often seen to be angry. Almost any emotion is visible on a personal face, from relief, to disbelief. In the attached logbook, I observed person B laughing and smiling, I could tell from her face that she was happy, because of the smile, but also because her eyes were open wide. Eye contact is also very important as this can be the difference of the conversation either being very awkward, which may result in the client not fully understanding the care worker, or being very friendly and pleasant, which will help the care worker and client build a relationship. The ‘ideal’ amount of eye contact to have in conversation is between 60% and 80%. This means it is not so long so that it would be staring, therefore awkward, but not so little that it comes across as rude and they are bored, as in European and British cultures, it is seen as very rude to do other things while in conversation.  In my logbook person a looked at person B around 90%-95% of the time, which after a while made person B feel uncomfortable, as she began to make less and less eye contact.

Hand gestures are also important as a form of effective communication in health and social care as well as in day to day life. As a health care professional, a workers job may include interacting with deaf or hard of hearing clients. Therefore, hand gestures help to describe thing. British Sign Language us also a form of hand gestures, which allow deaf people communicate with care workers, and other BSL trained people. Gestures such as pretending to take a drink with a pretend mug suggest the offer for a drink, but without words, this allows people in day to day life, as well as health care, so offer drinks food and so on, without using words.

The tone of voice in conversation is also very important. For example, if a doctor was delivering bad news to a patient, they would need to use a calm, steady and collected voice, to reassure the patient, and to be professional, whilst being sympathetic. A friendly, reassuring voice makes the dialogue calm and understandable to all members of the conversation. In the attached log book you can see how parson B uses a soft, calm and nurturing voice to ensure person A was okay, (while he was slouched on the desk). Person B also lengthens some words so that when she opened the dialogue with ‘heyyy, are you okayyy?’  The ‘hey’ and ‘okay’ were longer, which comes across friendly.

P2:The steps of the communication cycle.

Communication is not only about giving other people information when we are talking we undergo a process known as the communication cycle. Michael Argyle (1972) argued his point that interpersonal communication was a skill that is learnt and developed upon, in the same way that someone would learn and develop skills to drive a car.  Whilst driving a car, a person is constantly changing their driving behaviour, depending on how the road ahead lies, working out how to respond, and then repeating the cycle. This is the same in conversation. One waits on the other person to say something, sign something etc. Then just as one would respond to a change of road, respond with conversation. Argyle also argues that social skills involves a cycle, where each of the speakers must decode a message sent to them by the other people communicating, and then must constantly adapt one’s own behaviour to communicate in an effective manner

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The communication cycle may look like this:

  1. Ideas occur: you have something you want to communicate.
  2. Message coded: You think about how you are going to communicate what you are thinking, you put your thoughts into a form of communication, such as verbal, or British Sign Language.
  3. Message sent: You speak or sign your message, either in the form of speech, Sign language or writing etc.
  4. Message perceived: The other person picks up your message, for example they hear your words.
  5. Message decoded: The other person has to understand or ‘decode’ your message. The other person uses body ...

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