Element 4: Active Communication

Element 4: Active Communication

Strong, clear communication strengthens partnerships. How we communicate with families both verbally and non-verbally sets a tone for how partnerships develop. Below are some practices that support positive and meaningful communication between partners. Review this list and pick one or two practices that you feel you do well and one or two that you would like to practice more often.

Explanation & Examples
1. Attending to others Provide verbal or non-verbal awareness of the other, for example engaging in eye contact, facing the person speaking, limiting distractions, etc.
2. Restating messages Respond to a parent’s verbal message. “I heard you say that you felt frustrated when Kara’s teacher said that she had problems and that you should set more rules for her.”
3. Reflecting Reflect feelings, experiences, or content that has been heard or perceived through cues. (reinforcing and supporting the speaker, clarifying meaning) “That must have been hard for you. I can tell by your tears that it is still upsetting to talk about.”
4. Interpreting Offer a tentative interpretation about the other’s feelings, desires, or meanings. “What I am hearing is that this experience made you question your own parenting skills.”
5. Summarizing, synthesizing Bring together feelings and experiences; providing a focus. “Let’s focus a bit on these questions around parenting.”
6. Probing Question in a supportive way that requests more information or clarifies confusions. “Tell me more about some of the ways you feel successful as a parent.”
7. Supporting Show warmth and caring in one’s own individual way. “It sounds like there are many things that you do as a parent that support your child. Parenting isn’t always easy is it?”
8. Checking perceptions Find out if interpretations and perceptions are valid and accurate. “You had a difficult time hearing that Jose was struggling in school, you felt like maybe you hadn’t been doing enough to help him. It is clear you are passionate about being a mother and have much strength, yet are fearful that there is something you are missing, does that sound accurate so far?”
9. Being quiet Give the other time to think as well as to talk.

Practices I use regularly to communicate with families:

Practices I would like to use more often with families:

Previous Take Home Messages
This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.