For community support workers, listening is an essential aspect of their day to day job. Community support workers (CSWs) provide support on a variety of levels to individuals suffering from mental health issues, physical disabilities, developmental problems, or substance use issues. From determining what services individuals will benefit from accessing to implementing solutions that assist in their recovery, the ability of a community support worker to help those they are working with ultimately hinges on their active listening skills.
Active listening means giving the person your genuine and undivided attention. By engaging in active listening, CSWs establish trust and understanding with the individual they are working with by showing that they hear and care about what is being said. Active listening improves communication, and enables CSWs to provide a higher level of support. By utilizing active listening techniques, CSWs gain a more complete understanding of an individual’s problems and their needs, equipping them with the ability to implement solutions that will be most beneficial for them. Below are four ways that community support workers can apply active listening techniques on the job.
1. If You Have Community Support Worker Training, It’s Important to Give Physical Listening Cues
An important component of active listening is the act of the listener physically demonstrating to the speaker that they are paying attention and are engaged in the conversation. If a speaker perceives by someone’s body language that they are not interested in what they’re saying, a speaker may be less likely to share important information which could help CSWs to analyze their situation and provide the right methods of support.
Professionals with community support worker training can show that they are listening through their posture and body language. An active listener should lean forward slightly in the direction of the speaker, and avoid crossing their arms or leaning back too far, as these gestures can indicate disinterest in the conversation. Eye contact is another important physical listening cue. When listening to someone, CSWs should avoid glancing at their phone or at the door, and should instead maintain steady, comfortable eye contact with the speaker. CSWs can also smile and nod when appropriate, helping the speaker to relax and allowing the conversation to flow. By using the right physical cues, CSWs can make themselves more open to communication and provide positive reinforcement, contributing to an individual’s willingness to share what they’re going through.
2. Engage in Verbal Reflection
Verbal reflection is an important active listening technique, as it can help a speaker to see their situation more clearly, while confirming that the listener comprehends what is being said. Verbal reflection refers to the paraphrasing of the feelings and words expressed by the speaker. After an individual is finished speaking, community support workers can employ verbal reflection by summarizing the essence of what they have said in a more coherent manner. Not only will this technique encourage the speaker to continue sharing by affirming that they are being heard, but it will help the speaker to see the situation being described more clearly. Through verbal reflection, community support workers can paint a clearer picture of a person’s situation, establishing mutual understanding and enabling the speaker to become more receptive to solutions that will work for them.
3. Ask the Appropriate Questions
Asking questions is one of the most effective ways to show someone that they are being actively listened to. When working with an individual, CSWs can ask clarifying questions to ensure that they understand what is being said, avoiding miscommunication and false assumptions. Professionals with a community support worker diploma can also ask questions as a means of taking the conversation in a certain direction. By asking appropriate and relevant questions, CSWs can guide the person they’re working with to speak more about the issues they’re facing in a manner that helps CSWs to gauge what kind of support they need. Asking questions also helps the speaker to know that what they’re saying is being understood by the listener, contributing to increased trust.
4. Avoid Passing Judgment
A CSW’s job is not to pass judgment, but rather to provide encouragement, support and resources to individuals in difficult situations. When actively listening, CSWs should go into a conversation with open-mindedness, avoiding making comments that may be interpreted as judgmental. Judgment is incompatible with the active listening process, as active listening focuses on employing strategies to build trust and open communication throughout a conversation. When an individual feels judged, they may lose trust and retreat, becoming less likely to share what they are going through.
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