Effective communication 

The main aim of communication is to gain or share information using either verbal or non-verbal communication. There is a lot to consider when you are communicating during your volunteering activities. 

Poor communication can lead to confusion, mistakes, complaints, and unsafe situations.  

Developing these skills will enable you to communicate better with everyone, including the people you support as part of the NHS and Care Volunteer Responders programme.  

Verbal communication 

Speaking clearly, with the intent to receive or pass on the intended message, is a vital requirement for effective communication with others. This could be telephone conversations or in face-to-face discussions. 

Non-verbal communication 

Non-verbal communication includes body language, such as gestures, facial expressions, eye-contact and posture. Think about how you communicate in these ways whether in person or even over the phone.  

Tips to help with effective communication

1. Communication difficulties:

Recognising potential communication difficulties and accessing the correct support is vital.  

Some of the verbal communication difficulties that you may face as a volunteer can include people with: 

  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of sight
  • Language barriers
  • Speech defects
  • Learning disabilities. 

You will need to think about what you and the person you are communicating with might need to improve communication.  

This could include: 

Speaking slowly and louder than usual, asking what their first language is and letting the Support Team know so we could try to match with another volunteer, or asking if they have any equipment to support their communication. 

As a volunteer, if you are unsure about a person’s communication needs, it is important you let the Support Team know.  

2. Common errors:

Some common verbal communication errors to be mindful of include: 

  • Interrupting 
  • Insensitivity about religion or culture 
  • Failing to pass on concerns or fears 
  • Asking pressing questions 
  • Use of jargon without explanation 
  • Sharing confidential information  

3. Active listening:

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding as it focuses on the person you are talking to and ensures that the person feels heard. 

Read our active listening guide for more information. 

4. Consent:

Everything we do for the people we support, whether it is supporting the person to make choices or supporting them when at home or out in the community, requires their consent. 

So how does a person give consent? The first step is to ask the question, such as: 

Mr Brown, do you need me to place the shopping in your home and unpack it for you? 

The following responses from Mr Brown could be considered as offering ‘consent’: 

Saying ‘yes’ or something similar (‘Alright’, ‘OK’, etc.) 

Nodding their head 

If you don’t receive any of these, you don’t have Mr Brown’s consent. 

5. Reporting concerns:

As a volunteer, people may share concerns, complaints or queries with you. However, is it not your responsibility to deal with issues shared with you and you should contact the Support Team on 0808 193 3382 so that our trained teams can follow up appropriately. 

It is important you communicate this information in a clear and factual manner and this information should be kept confidential. 

Effective communication like any skill is one that can be improved with practice and reflection. Understanding the needs of the person you are supporting will help you to tailor your communication to their needs. The other guides in this series will help you to build your knowledge and confidence of effective communication.