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By William R. Leahy, M.D.
Barriers to Communication
Communication can be blocked or disrupted in many ways.
The following are some barriers to communication and
ways to avoid them.
a. Your loved one does not hear or
understand what you say…speak clearly and check that any
hearing aid is working.
b. You do not hear or understand what
she is telling you. Ask her to repeat what she has said.
c. The meaning of words or terms is
not clear. Use simple words and avoid medical
d. Using clichés makes your message
e. Asking “why” makes your loved one
defensive. The word “why” often does not allow you to
open up a conversation that is helpful in resolving the
f. Yes/no answers end a conversation.
Unless you are seeking direct information, ask
open-ended questions that need more than a “yes” or “no”
Accurate and Complete
In addition to avoiding barriers to communication, these
positive techniques will help you send and receive
clear, complete messages.
a. Be a good listener. Allow the
other person to express her ideas completely.
b. Provide feedback as you listen.
Active listening involves focusing on message and
providing feedback. Offering general but leading
responses such as “on?” or “go on” or “hmmm” provide
feedback and encourage the sender to expand the message.
c. Bring up topics of concern. If you
know a topic may be of concern, raise it in a general,
d. Let some pauses happen. Use
silence to allow the other person to gather her thoughts
or decide to convey another message.
e. Ask for more. When your loved one
reports feelings, events, or symptoms, restate what you
have heard to clarify. Ask if there is more he or she
can tell you.