Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

"Can you hear me now?" may be a catchy advertising slogan, but is also a great question to ask ourselves when talking about effective, open communication. Both nannies and families know the importance of communication in their relationship, so why is it sometimes such a challenge?

Part of the reason could be that often the subjects nannies and families deal with come with an emotional attachment. Discussing issues regarding the children or job performance can be sensitive. Here are some techniques that may help when conversations have an emotional component.
  • Planning ahead by preparing notes about the issues can help compose thoughts and feelings, so that everyone can focus on goals or solutions.
  • Communicate concerns as quickly as possible. Don't wait for issues to "grow" into major problems or assume that the other party knows there is an issue that needs to be discussed.
  • Setting a time to talk and a location that is conducive for conversation is important. Trying to have a serious or detailed conversation while children are needing attention is difficult, if not impossible.
  • Be positive in initiating communication. This is a time to be constructive and share in an amiable, non-threatening manner.
  • Being aware of your emotional factors and being sensitive to others emotional responses can be helpful as you choose how to introduce issues.
  • Allow time for all parties to consider the information before making changes or implementing plans. Feedback is important for all concerned.
Two additional keys in improving communication are clarity of expression and reflective listening.
  • Clarity of expression deals with how we speak to others. Avoid being vague or abstract. Carefully choose words and phrases that are clear and free from jargon to minimize being misinterpreted.
  • Reflective listening is a technique to ensure that interpretation of information is accurate. By restating what we've heard in our own words to the speaker, we can begin to ensure that we haven't misread them.
My experiences communicating with my employers have generally been good, but there have been occasions over the years that I've needed to rely on these skills. When addressing an issue, I want to approach it from my personal view. The use of "I feel . . . " or "I have noticed . . ." rather than "You said . . ." or "You did . . ." is a more open form of getting the point across. I want to listen closely to responses which will let me know if I am being understood and also giving me insight into their feeling, concerns and viewpoint. By modeling an open communication style I have noticed that they will also use those techniques with me.

When we are talking about child related issues we work together to come up with a plan that we feel
will work for that child and agree to get back together after a particular time period to reassess the progress. When discussing job performance issues we also agree to thoughtfully consider any new goals, changes, or issues and revisit them at a later time for finalization. I recommend a periodic employment review so that all aspects of the position can be examined by the nanny and family.

I statements also work wonderfully when communicating with children. I can't tell you how many times using "I need you . . . ", "I would like . . ." and "I expect . . ." have made a huge difference in their willingness to complete chores or school assignments without the negativity that can come with other approaches. As the children grow they will pick up on the communication skills that they have observed all of us using.

Effective communication is a skill for life. When everyone is genuinely willing and committed, most issues can be resolved if they are handled in a timely, effective manner.

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