CareAcademy Blog

How to Be a Better Communicator

This is the first in a two part series to help in-home professional caregivers learn the fundamentals of professionalism. This article focuses on how to be a better communicator. Good communication skills are necessary for anyone to be seen and treated as a professional.

What is communication?

What does the word ‘communication’ mean to you?

If you think communication is about “talking,” you are not wrong. But talking is only one part of communicating. Communication is a way of connecting with others and sharing information.  Not only does it include “what you say,” but also “how you say it.”  Being able to communicate well is one of the most important life skills.  How well you are able to both give and receive information will demonstrate just how good your communication skills are.  

Effective Communication Is A Marketable Skill Set

Good communication in eldercare is an essential skill that employers look for. You need to be able to communicate well with your client, their family, your supervisor and your co-workers. Through communication you can gather information, build trust and request assistance.  Being able to comfortably talk with others and listen to them opens the door to cooperation and positive relationships. Learning how to be a better communicator is important. In all interactions, communication is the bridge to learning what your client, supervisor, and co-workers need and want. From introductions to day-to-day communication, you will establish many relationships. Have the courage to say what you think, and be confident in knowing that you can make good conversation.  Developing great communication skills begins with simple interactions, and like anything else, it requires practice. It is never too late to work on your communication skills and improve your quality of life.  Improving your communication skills will help all aspects of your life, from family life to social gatherings.

A Good Communicator’s Secrets

There is a secret to good and effective communication, and it includes the following key parts:
  • Verbal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Being a good listener

Using Verbal Communication

How to properly introduce yourself. One critical skill everyone should be able to do well is introduce themselves. You will be introducing yourself many times throughout your workday, especially during the first few weeks of work. The first few minutes you meet someone are extremely important, because first impressions have a significant impact on your future communication with that person.
  1. Introduce yourself by using your first and last name the first time you meet someone.  It might be a good idea to wear a name badge to help others remember your name until they get to know you better.
  2. A handshake is often appropriate.  Make sure that it is firm, but not too firm.
  3. Be friendly, with a smiling face. This is much more likely to encourage communication than a blank face, or a facial expression that makes your look bored or irritated.
  4. Use a relaxed and friendly tone of voice. This will help keep you and the other person calm.
  5. Use your client’s proper name when speaking directly to or referring to them. Some clients may ask that you call them by their first name. Others may prefer that you address them by Mr. (last name) or Mrs. (last name). You should not call them by nicknames such as “honey” or “sweetheart.”

Using Non-Verbal Communication

Body language By “using” non-verbal communication, we mean how to be a better communicator without talking or using words.  One major way to communicate non-verbally is through body language, or the movements and positions you put your body in to express feelings and other information.  Remember that your “body language” will say more than words.  For instance, positive body language is more likely to encourage open communication from other people. 

Tips to using body language effectively:

  1. Your body language should match what you are saying. Even people with severe memory problems who have difficulty understanding what you say, can still “read” your body language.
  2. Establish eye contact. This means looking at the person to whom you are talking. Eye contact tells the other person you are listening and that you mean what you are saying.
  3. Want to look friendly? Smile!
  4. Nod to show that you are listening to what they are saying to you.
  5. A touch can help build a warm connection and show that you care.  Just think of something as simple as touching the older adult’s shoulder, or holding their hands. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. Of course, you should only touch someone if they allow you to touch them.  This shows that you respect their personal space.
  6. Keep your cell phone off and out of sight when having a conversation with your client, supervisor, or co-worker.  That way, you can keep your attention on them.

Being a Good Listener

Listening is extremely important, often more so than talking. “Active listening” requires practice and self-awareness to do well.

Essential tips for effective and active listening:

  • Be prepared to listen
  • Keep an open mind and concentrate on the speaker’s message
  • Delay judgment until you have heard everything
  • Do not be trying to think of your next question while the other person is talking.  Most of us spend more time thinking about what they are going to say next instead of listening to what the other person is trying to say.
  • Repeat back the main point of what the person said.  You can even do this in the form of a question.  Doing this helps show that you find the conversation interesting, as well as the person.  It also shows that you understand what was said and would like to learn more.
The hard work that eldercare givers perform every day is based on being a great communicator. No one who works with people can communicate ineffectively and keep up the job for long – there’s just too much personal communication involved. Learning how to be a better communicator always pays off – at work and in your personal life.  

Being a true professional is invaluable. Eldercare professionals are certified by CareAcademy.

Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. She has seen the struggles that families and caregivers go through when caring for adults. Through CareAcademy, she intends to improve people's lives. Dr. Reddy's research is published as journal articles and book chapters. She has also authored a book for family caregivers.

Madhuri ReddyHow to Be a Better Communicator

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