Steps to Effective Communication

Stop, Look and Listen!

Steps to Effective Communication

The ability to express oEffective Communicationurselves clearly and to understand what others are trying to say to us is the key to success in all areas of our lives. Most of us have not been trained in the principles of effective communication. We do not always listen to what is being said. Instead we are busy formulating and justifying our own point of view. We also become derailed by bringing up the past, especially old hurts and resentments.

Effective communication has two parts: How to really hear – and really understand – what others are saying, and and how to express feelings and thoughts without dragging in past conflicts and emotions.

It takes commitment and practice to improve communication with your care-receiver, medical team, family members, etc. You can begin by noticing when you are on automatic and then remembering what you learned about crossing a street safely: Stop, Look, and Listen.


A. Stop what you are doing. Be present, eliminate distractions, stop talking, etc.

B. Look at the speaker. Give full attention; notice body-language.

C. Listen to what is being said. Allow the speaker time to finish, don’t jump to conclusions.

D. Double check. Be certain you have all the facts, ask for more information if needed.

Once you have done all the above, it is your turn and time to express your thoughts and feelings.

Your Turn to Speak

A. “Be” Attitudes

Be focused Address the issue at hand. Do not bring strong emotions and issues from the past into the discussion.
Be specific. Do not assume the listener knows what you are thinking. Offer clarifications if necessary.
Be calm If the speaker is distraught, be calm. If you are in an emotional state where you are unable to discuss an issue, agree to continue the discussion later.
Be polite Do not use inflammatory words. Avoid insults and accusations. They will lead to heated argument and make the problem worse.

B. When pointing out an existing problem

  • Identify the issue without blaming or shaming. Avoid personal attacks.
  • Use “I” statements. “I feel __________when you _______________.
  • Offer solutions as preferences. “I would prefer it if you/we _____________________.

C. Make allowances if the other person has hearing or vision loss, or is confused.

D. Revisit the issue if you cannot reach a consensus. Accept the fact that there are some problems for which there is no solution.

15 Reminders of Effective Communication Principles

  1. Check to see if your care-receiver has on glasses and hearing aids.
  2. Look at your care-receiver when he or she is speaking. Be aware of non-verbal communication
  3. Answer all of your care-receiver’s questions. Don’t rush.
  4. Imagine yourself in your care-receivers world. How would you feel in his or her situation?
  5. Speak to your care-receiver as one adult to another. Use a respectful tone.
  6. Acknowledge your care-receiver’s objections and concerns.
  7. Allow your care-receiver time to absorb what you’re saying. Clarify or state in a different way if necessary. Offer options.
  8. Mirror back what you think you’ve heard your care-receiver say. Ask questions.
  9. Stay calm. Don’t take anything personally.
  10. Give your care-receiver time to think things over. Don’t press for an immediate answer.
  11. Think of this as a time to get to know your care-receiver better. Listen for concerns and fears. What would give him or her comfort? With whom would he or she like to talk?
  12. Take a break if your care-receiver is tired or either of you becomes upset. Return to the conversation at an appropriate time.
  13. Make sure you have heard your care-receiver’s decision correctly and are interpreting it as intended.
  14. Request help from other family members if necessary and/or appropriate.
  15. Remember, you are not alone. There are two of you in the equation. Keep communications open.

*Book excerpts taken from The Complete Caregiver Support Guide.

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