Communicating with Families of Diverse Backgrounds

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  • 1:08 Tips
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we'll learn about interacting with families of diverse backgrounds. We'll explore the challenges and rewards involved in this process, and we'll highlight tips that aid in the communication process.

Interacting With Diverse Families

Imagine you're starting your first day as a social worker or other, similar professional at a local department of social services. You are just out of graduate school and have studied much about interpersonal relationship skills and effective communication. You're feeling confident and ready to take on the world. Then your supervisor asks you to lead a meeting in which you must discuss a treatment plan for a child whose primary language is Japanese and whose family has difficulty understanding English. You don't know any Japanese, and suddenly you don't feel as confident as before. In fact, you're a little scared. You struggle to recall what you studied about communicating with families of diverse backgrounds.

Interacting with families of diverse backgrounds can be challenging but rewarding. Challenges include language barriers, cultural barriers, and fear of being misunderstood. The rewards of learning to communicate effectively with families of diverse backgrounds far outweigh the challenges, however. Rewards include gaining new perspectives on life, developing interpersonal relationship skills, and, most importantly, helping the community and the world.

Tips

When interacting with families of diverse backgrounds, demonstrating an empathetic attitude is critical. Empathy is the capacity to share or understand another's feelings or emotions. When you take a genuine interest in understanding others and are able to empathize with their situation, it helps set the stage for building a trusting relationship in which positive communication can take place.

Active listening involves using non-verbal body language to communicate undivided attention. Examples of active listening include making eye contact and nodding your head. These behaviors show that you care about and understand what is being said.

Now that we have covered active listening, let's discuss reflective listening. Reflective listening means listening attentively to a speaker, then summarizing back to them what they said. You're basically ''reflecting'' their own words back to them. This type of listening helps limit miscommunication and ensures that both parties are on the same page.

It's important to gather as much information from the family as possible. Asking open-ended questions and utilizing reflective listening are great strategies for creating treatment plans for children of diverse families.

It's also important to make use of an interpreter if possible. Unfortunately, there will be many instances in which an interpreter will be unavailable. Many children whose parents do not speak English can speak English themselves, even if it's just a few words. Many families who do not understand English well usually have a relative or close family friend they can bring along to meetings to help communicate effectively.

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