Module 1: Effective Communication


  • To understand different methods of communication
  • To develop an understanding of how information is interpreted
  • To explore ways of improving your own communication skills

Impact of messages:

Impact of a message
The impact of a message depends more on what is said non-verbally than on what is said in words. The ratio of total impact of a message is: (source)
  • 7% verbal
  • 38% vocal (tone, pace and pitch)
  • 55%  Facial expression


Perception versus reality
Perception versus reality! (source)

A learner’s response to your message is based on what they perceive you said. Due to prior learning, you are likely to see or hear what you expect to see or hear.

Read through this list of colors, instead of reading the word; say the color of each word (source)

If you found this difficult, then you have demonstrated the effect of prior learning on your perception.

In the same way it is sometimes hard to really listen to the learner’s explanation of their performance because it differs from our established expectations. There is never just one way of seeing things…

What do you see below? (source)

What do you see?

In black you can read the word GOOD; but the word EVIL also appears in white letters inside each black letter.

ACTIVITY: Watch these short video clips below from “YOUTUBE” and reflect upon your learning.

YOUTUBE CLIP: Effective communication by Integration Training       
Duration: 7.21 minutes
A short video by Mark Walsh giving 10 tips for effective communication.

YOUTUBE CLIP:   Verbal and non-verbal communication
Duration: 4.38 minutes
A short video describing verbal and non-verbal communication with some cultural sensitivities.

REFLECTIVE EXERCISE: Observe some conversations at your workplace. What body language did you observe and was it consistent with the verbal content? Reflect upon  your observations.


Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Often when people talk to each other, they don’t listen attentively. They are often distracted, half listening, half thinking about something else.
The following can be utilised to assist with the development of your active listening skills:

  • Attending – pay close attention to what the speaker is saying and for non-verbal communication cues. Use minimal encouragers e.g. mmm or yes
  • Open ended questions – use open ended questions that ask for an explanation or discussion; not closed questions which only elicit yes or no responses
  • Reflection – reflect the speakers thoughts back to them to demonstrate understanding and comprehension
  • Positive affirmation – positively affirm the speaker’s actions and efforts. This helps build a positive, trusting relationship and will increase the speaker’s confidence
  • Summarise – summarising what has been discussed helps the speaker and listener agree on what has been said and prevents any misunderstanding

Barriers to effective communication:

  • Insincere praise – can be seen as manipulation
  • Diagnosing - not listening, or jumping to conclusions
  • Ordering (“bossiness”) - causes resentment or resistance, sabotage or non-compliance
  • Threats (as above)
  • Moralising - these are the ‘you should do’ comments backed up by reference to senior staff
  • Advising – can imply a person is incapable of problem-solving
  • Diverting - autobiographical takeover e.g. that happened to me
  • Logical argument - focus on facts and avoids feelings when this is central to a problem
  • Criticising – judgmental
  • Pretending to listen- thinking of the answer while speaker is talking
  • Generalising - can invalidate the speaker’s feelings


Clinical Supervisors are often given complex clinical loads, because of their comprehensive understandings of their environment. Even the most competent supervisor may feel overloaded and needs to communicate this effectively.
Being assertive is an important method of communicating your message. Many people however find being assertive difficult. They want to be ‘nice’, ‘helpful’ and hate to let people down. When someone is crossing over the boundaries, use the ‘I’ message- e.g.  when you… (the behaviour that annoys you) I feel… (how you actually feel)  I’d prefer…(how you want things to be different).

Ensure you say ‘no’ upfront – do not hesitate or use tentative language. Be clear. Use a pleasant tone of voice and give a brief reason for your assertion. This will ensure the outcome prevents any misunderstandings and you do not feel like you are performing tasks that you are uncomfortable doing (Partners in Health, Preceptorship Package, 2005).