Sunday, 10 January 2010

For Rari, or For me - the importance of clear communication

Over Christmas I watched a couple of You've Been Framed episodes - for me there is a guilty pleasure in a) having time to watch whatever is on the TV without having to worry about time and b) watching the everyday mishaps of people's lives, with the clear knowledge that a fall on the bum may have hurt at the time but was unlikely to have long lasting consequences because the video has been sent in for other people's viewing.

There was one programme which profiled children's adventures. Amongst many funny head butting birthday cakes, being frightened by talking Christmas tress and mowing down the Christmas tree with the life size toy care, there were two particular clips which highlighted the importance of good communication.

The first was the birthday party of a girl still in a highchair so 2 - 3 years old. The family were singing happy birthday to you and she got quite upset and indignant - NO! Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me. The adults continued with Happy Birthday to you. Probably a lesson for another day - at that point in time the birthday would have been enjoyed more had they starting singing happy birthday to me. Or indeed pointing at the girl if they were going to continue with singing 'happy birthday to you'. Somehow the communication needed to change for her to feel happy and enjoy the moment.

The second, really made me laugh when the boy opened a toy car and someone said is that a Ferrari and the boy shouted no it is For me. Maybe there is a Rari in their family and in any case the boy heard its For Rari.

Both highlight that what is said doesn't have to be wrong to be misunderstood or problematic. And sometimes when I train professionals they will say well I told them the truth, I used the right words and pass the problem of miscommunication onto the young person. Communication is a two way thing, and when we are working in any professional role, but particularly with young people, it is our responsibility to ensure we are understood, and that we understand.

Of course, nothing I have said is new, but to communicate effectively we must recognise that the way that young people are accessing information and communicating with each other is changing (as indeed it is for all of us - how many managers would have baulked at the idea of being told a member of their team is sick by text 5 years ago, but accept it now; and how many of you will now say can you give me a few bullet points, sometimes to explain quite complex issues?).

So, when texting and social networking is common, many professionals have 10 minutes for a consultation with (young) people, and the world can be reduced into bullet points, when it comes to young people's sexual health only good communication that both parties understand will cut the mustard.

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