ABSTRACT

In order to create rapport and develop effective communication, it is important to focus on really ‘being with’ consumers:

Take a moment before you meet with someone to let go of whatever you’ve been thinking about and really be in the moment—undistracted.

Actively listen rather than thinking about what you’ll say next or trying to find solutions. Allow time for the service user to find their own solutions as they talk it out.

18 Be aware of your body language and the way you are positioned within the room. Try to create an environment that encourages openness.

Always remember what a privilege it is to hear the information consumers share. In normal social situations, you would never hear someone’s deepest secrets and fears—although you might do this routinely, for them it is still a really big deal, so treat it with the respect it deserves.

Don’t expect people to share everything with you in the first meeting. Focus on building trust, not getting information. Information will come once the trust is built.

Remember, inside every ‘mad’-looking person is someone with whom you can speak. Talk to that person, not the behaviours.

Communicating when someone is distressed can be very challenging, so have patience and try to hear the real message, even if the words they use are hard to understand. Sometimes the message will be about how afraid they feel—in which case, address that fear and try to make them feel safer before trying to talk about other issues.