EXERCISE 6- 1: CULTURALLY SENSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS Complete the following exercises to become more aware of the nature of your speech and language patterns. 2 1. Imagine that you are working in an agency that provides a wide range of psychosocial services including individual, family, and group counseling. You are about to meet for the first time with a prospective client who remains unemployed after losing a long- term job; is now deeply in debt; and is about to lose his apartment. The client differs dramatically from you. If you are female, pretend that the client is male or transgendered. If you are white, imagine that the client is a person of color. If you are heterosexual, assume that the client is homosexual or bisexual. If you are tall, assume that the client is of shorter stature. If you are highly educated, imagine a client with limited formal education. If you are middle class, pretend that the client is virtually penniless. If you have a residence, presume that the client is homeless. If you believe in a god or higher power, you might imagine that the client is agnostic or atheist; or if you are Christian, assume that your client is Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. If you have normal hear-ing, imagine that your client is hearing- impaired. If you are sighted, assume that your client is blind. If you are able- bodied, imagine that your client uses a wheelchair to get around. Now, use a recording device ( for example, audio or video) to capture yourself as you express the words you would say or sign as you begin work with this prospective client. Introduce yourself, describe something about the kinds of services your agency might be able to provide, and ask this imaginary person some of the questions you would like to ask. Continue this imaginary introduction for approximately 2 minutes. Replay the recording and review your language usage. Examine the words you said and consider them from the point of view of the imaginary person you have created for this exercise. Use the space below to discuss how your prospective client would likely experience the words and language you have chosen to use? Consider how people who differ from you in terms of age, gender, skin color, sexual orientation, educational background, socio-economic status, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical appearance, and physical or mental ability might experience you, your speech, and your language. Finally, identify one or two aspects of culturally sensitive communication that you would like to strengthen in preparation for your roles and functions as a professional social worker.
2.2 Access the Internet and use a search engine to first locate a list of ethnic groups in the world and then a list of racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Alternately, you could go to your university or library to locate books or other print material containing such lists ( Levinson, 1998). Recognize that various sources may use different definitions of ethnic group or ethnolinguistic group. For example, if you search the online version of The World Factbook of the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency using the keywords ? field listing ethnic groups? you should find a tabular list of ethnic groups by percentage of population in the world?s nations ( Central Intelligence Agency, 2012). If you use the keywords ? lists of ethnic groups? in a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, you would prob-ably locate the Wikipedia entry by the same title ( Wikipedia, 2012). If you conducted a similar search using the keywords ? Fact Sheet for a Race, Ethnic, or Ancestry Group,? you would probably access the American Fact Finder website of the U. S. Census Bureau. That site permits you to search for demographic data related to a particular population group in the country as a whole, by state, or by city/ town. You might notice that the list of racial, ethnic, and ancestry groups used by the U. S. Census Bureau differs somewhat from those used by other organizations. Once you have gained a sense of the hundreds of ethnic groups throughout the world and the country, select one that interests you and about which you know little. For example, you might decide to learn about the Hmong or perhaps the Navajo, the Amish, or the Druze, Persian, Armenian, Kurdish, Sikh, Haitian, or Bantu ethnic groups. Once you have made your choice, conduct a library, bibliographic, or Internet search to identify three or four cultural ? do?s and taboos? in verbal or written communication style or approach with members of that ethnic group. Be sure to include at least one ? do? that conveys respect and at least one ? taboo? that suggests disrespect ( Axtell, 1998, 2007).
Use the space below to list the ? do?s? and ? taboos? and to cite the source of the informa-tion. Finally, remember that members of a particular racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, or national group or tribe are not ? all alike.? Indeed, variations within groups might some-times be greater than those between groups.
3. Access the Internet and use a search engine to locate the ? Say Hello to the World? proj-ect of the Internet Public Library ( 2009). Use the following space to write how you would say ? Hello, my name is ( your name)? in each of the following languages: ( a) Arabic, ( b) Cherokee, ( c) Chinese, ( d) Hindi, ( e) Spanish, and ( f ) Swahili. Also, look to see how the phrase ? Hello, my name is? appears in Braille and in American Sign Language.
4. Suppose you were about to meet with a family that recently entered the United States from another country. Because of a preliminary telephone call, you know that they are interested in learning about immigration laws and procedures for obtaining a ? Green Card? ( Form I- 551). Access the Internet and search for the ? Lawful Permanent Resi-dence? (? Green Card?) section of the U. S. Citizen and Immigration Services ( USCIS) website ( 2009) to become familiar with key requirements. Use the following space to outline what is involved in qualifying for green card status.
EXERCISE 6- 2: NONVERBAL COMMUNICATIONS AND BODY LANGUAGE 1. Recruit a friend or colleague to join you in a few nonverbal experiments. 4 After you have completed them, use the space provided to summarize your observations, discoveries, preferences, and questions. Make note of your partner?s as well.
a. Maintaining eye contact, slowly move toward your partner, who remains in position, until it becomes uncomfortable for you. Then stop. Observe the approximate distance between you. What were your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as you moved closer and closer to your partner? What did your partner experience as you approached?
b. Position yourself face- to- face with your partner at a distance of approximately 4 feet. Look directly into his or her eyes until you become uncomfortable. When that occurs, simply avert your eyes. Now, move to 3 feet, then to 2 feet, each time looking directly into your partner?s eyes until you experience discomfort. Then turn away. Share your reactions with each other. Now, experiment with different kinds and degrees of eye contact within a 2- to 4- foot range. For example, try looking at your partner?s cheekbone or mouth instead of directly into her or his eyes. Share your reactions. Experiment further by looking into your partner?s eyes for several seconds and then slightly change your focus so that you look at a cheekbone for a few seconds; then return your gaze to the eyes. Follow that by looking at your part-ner?s mouth for a few seconds, and then return to the eyes. Share your responses to this manner of eye contact.
c. Place two chairs squarely facing one another ( front to front) approximately 2 feet apart. Be seated. Share your thoughts and feelings as you sit face- to- face and knee-to- knee. Is it comfortable for both of you, for only one, for neither? If it is uncom-fortable, alter the distance until it becomes comfortable. Ask your partner to do the same. Finally, compromising if necessary, move the chairs until you arrive at a mutually comfortable distance. Change the placement of the chairs so that in-stead of directly facing one another, they now are side by side in parallel position, approximately 6 inches apart. As you and your partner take your seats, share your respective thoughts and feelings. Now increase the angle so that the chairs form a 90- degree angle. Share with one another your reactions to this arrangement. Now increase the angle an additional 45 degrees. Share your reactions to this position. Which arrangement does your partner prefer? Which do you?
d. Based on the results of your experimentation, place the chairs in the position and at the angle that is reasonably comfortable for both you and your partner. Some compromise may be necessary. Now, maintaining a more or less neutral facial ex-pression and without saying a word, try to show through your body language, but without changing your facial expression, that you care about your partner and are interested in his or her thoughts and feelings. Continue to experiment with three or four different body positions, attempting to demonstrate concern and interest, for approximately a minute each. Following each position, seek verbal feedback from your partner concerning her or his reactions. What did you learn from the exercise?
e. Assume a position that your partner indicates reflects caring and interest. Now ?begin to experiment with different facial expressions. First, let your face become re-laxed in its more or less usual state. Retain this facial expression for about a minute while your partner experiences the effect. After a minute, seek feedback from your partner about his or her observations and reactions. Then experiment with other ?facial expressions through which you hope to express silently, in turn, affection, compassion, joy, sadness, disappointment, disapproval, fear, and anger. Hold each facial expression for a minute or so while your partner tries to determine the feeling you are trying to express. Share your experience, observations, and discoveries.
worker. All women are not the same; nor are all men, all people of color, all children, all gay or les-bian people, all social workers, or even all professors. Be sensitive to and carefully consider factors of gender, class, ethnicity, ableness, sexual orientation, religion, and cultural affiliation but also recognize that, despite our nearly identical DNA, each individual person is unique. Each person differs, at least to some extent, from common characteristics of the ? average? member of his or her class or group. As an interview proceeds, you may attempt to match the client?s language mode. Some peo-ple favor words associated with hearing; others prefer those identified with seeing; still others like words that indicate sensing or touching. For example, if you use words such as hear, sound, noise, loud, or soft with people who favor an auditory language mode, you enhance the likelihood of mu-tual understanding. Your potential value may also increase. A similarly favorable reaction is likely if you were to use see, view, and perceive with people who prefer a visual language mode, or feel, sense, and touch with those who favor tactile language ( Bandler & Grinder, 1979). In general, try to adopt a speaking style that is moderate in tone and speed of delivery. Through your speech, convey that you are truly interested in what the client has to say ( Ivey, 1988, p. 22). Sometimes, however, you may deliberately increase or decrease your rate of speech to match the pace of the client. On other occasions, you may purposely slow your pace to lead a fast- talking client into a slower speaking mode. In some circumstances ( for example, when working with a client with some loss of a client with some loss of hearing), you may lower the pitch of your voice to be more audible. Generally, when you speak or write, active voice is preferable to passive voice, and each unit of speech should not be so long or complex as to impede understanding. Short messages and single questions are easier to comprehend, as are single questions. Multipart questions can confuse others. In written communications, adopt a professional attitude consistent with the qualities and characteristics of professionalism discussed in earlier chapters. Badly written, poorly formatted docu-ments that contain spelling and grammatical errors, logical fallacies, and fail to reflect critical thought, a scholarly perspective, or the universal intellectual standards are likely to be dismissed by recipients. In general, write in relatively short sentences. Use active voice, get to the point, provide a ra-tionale for or evidence to support your position and, when needed to strengthen a position, include one or more illustrative examples. Gear your language to your audience. If you are communicating with other helping professionals you may use relevant jargon to capture complex phenomena that are best described through sophisticated terminology. In other contexts and for other audiences, avoid jargon altogether. Use succinct, descriptive, and businesslike language. Unless your purpose requires an evaluation or professional judgment, avoid speculative language. Distinguish opinions and conclusions from observations and facts. Organize your document in an orderly fashion. You may use actual section headings or simply con-ceptualize each paragraph or two as a section so that the heading is implied. Obviously, there are many various documents that social workers prepare. These include notations made as part of case records ( written or, increasingly, electronic), agendas and minutes of meetings, formal position or ? white papers,? grant applications, business plans and, of course, a seemingly endless number of e- mail messages. In addition to case records, the most commonly prepared documents are probably letters, memorandums, and e- mails. Professional letters are organized in ? business letter? fashion. If you prepare letters as part of your role with an organization, use the agency?s letterhead paper. How-ever, if you are not writing as a representative of your agency but rather from your perspective as a professional social worker, use your personal letterhead paper? or include your name followed by earned credentials ( for example, Sue Wong, MSW, LSW indicates that Ms. Wong has earned a Master of Social Work degree and is currently a Licensed Social Worker). Along with your name, place your address, center- justified, at the top of the first page. As you prepare a professional letter, keep its purpose in mind. Ask yourself, ? What do I hope to accomplish through this letter?? Once answered, outline the steps needed to accomplish it. ?Typically, the first paragraph contains a succinct summary of your purpose and, when needed, a brief introduction of yourself. The remaining paragraphs may be used to elaborate upon that ?purpose by, for example, summarizing factual information about the nature and extent of a prob-lem or issue along with an illustrative example or two to provide a ? human face? ( without risking privacy or violating confidentiality); providing a rationale as to why action is needed; identify-ing a few reasonable approaches and then discussing the advantages and disadvantages as well as potential risks and potential benefits of each; and then recommending the approach you prefer. A ?concluding summary often helps to reinforce the message. As in all professional documents, carefully edit and reedit the letter; be sure to credit sources, avoid plagiarization, and double check for spelling, grammatical, and logical errors. Avoid unusual fonts. Instead use a traditional font? such as Times New Roman? in 12- point size. Left justify all text ( with the exception of your name and address which is centered at the top). Most professional letters reflect a structure similar to that illustrated in Box 6.3.
Professional Letter Format: Example
Sue Wong, MSW, LSW
1 Long Drive Indianapolis, Indiana 46260
[ Date ( e. g., July 27, 2012)]
[ Recipient?s Personal Title, Name, and Credentials if applicable and known ( e. g., Mr. Curt Blank, BSW)]
[ Recipient?s Position if known ( e. g., Director of Homeless Services)]
[ Name of Organization if applicable ( e. g., City of Indianapolis)]
[ Street Address ( e. g., 3611 County Square Building, Suite # 152)]
[ City or Town, State or Province, and Postal Code ( e. g., Indianapolis, Indiana 46202)]
[ Country, if needed ( e. g., USA)]
[ Salutation and Name followed by a colon ( e. g., Dear Mr. Blank:)] [ Introductory Paragraph( s)]
[ Main Paragraph( s)]
[ Summary or Concluding Paragraph( s)]
[ Closing followed by a comma ( e. g., Sincerely yours,)]
[ Signature ( e. g., Sue Wong]
[ Your Printed Name ( e. g., Sue Wong, MSW, LSW)]
[ Your Professional Title ( e. g., Licensed Social Worker)]
EXERCISE 6- 3: TALKING 1. Imagine that you are serving as a social worker in a community outreach program. The program seeks to locate homeless people in the area and inform them of com-munity resources that might enhance their lives and well- being. Several services for homeless individuals and families are available. These include: temporary housing and food ?preparation; medical and dental care; job training and placement; and ongoing counseling. Use a word- processing program to prepare a preliminary ? script? to help you prepare what you might say to homeless people in introducing yourself and the services you can provide. Reflect upon the script and then revise as needed. Familiarize yourself with the script? but do not memorize it. Then, without reading the script, make a 2- to 3- minute audio recording of what you might say when you first meet a homeless person that you find living in a small wooded section near a downtown river and seek to intro-duce yourself and describe the services provided by the program. 6 Replay the recording and review your language usage. Examine the words you said and consider them from the point of view of a person who has not sought your company. Reflect upon your speech and tone of voice. Use the space provided below to respond to the following questions: What might they suggest about your approach and attitude toward the person? Do your voice and speech convey the qualities of interest, respect, confidence, and hopefulness? Identify one or two aspects of verbal and nonverbal com-munication that you would like to strengthen in preparation for your roles and functions as a professional social worker. Following that, imagine that you are that homeless person. A stranger approaches and begins to speak to you. You do not know the identity of the stranger nor the purpose for the visit. How might you experience the stranger?s body language and movement, nonverbal expressions, speech, voice, and language? As a homeless person, how would you like to be approached, addressed, and engaged?
3. As you know, the ? talking? skills also include written as well as verbal forms of com-munication. Use a word- processing program to prepare two professional- quality docu-ments: ( a) a letter and ( b) a memorandum. As a topic for both documents, select a social problem that has recently been the subject of local, national, or international news and also interests you. For example, you might be concerned about human trafficking, or the illegal procurement and sales of human organs, or perhaps injustices associated with application of the death penalty. You might question the practice of stoning or caning women accused of adultery, the forced marriage of girls to adult men, or the practice of female circumcision. You might be concerned about drought, famine, hunger, and starvation in parts of the world or perhaps about the social impact of climate change. As social workers, we are well aware of a seemingly infinite number of major social problems. Choose one that engenders passion and energy. Then, draft either a ? letter to the editor? or a letter to your legislative representative. You do not have to mail the let-ter. View the exercise as an opportunity to practice your written communication skills. In the letter, use a paragraph or two to introduce the nature and scope of the prob-lem, and provide an illustrative example. Use the remaining paragraphs to suggest some ?action? ?perhaps in the form of a policy or program, legislation, or steps that other con-cerned people might take. Prepare the document in the form of a business letter. After you edit and finalize the letter, prepare an alternate version in the form of a memorandum to colleagues. To do so, make an electronic copy of the letter that you prepared and then edit it so that it appears in the form of a memorandum. Label the word- processed documents ? Draft Letter 1? and ? Draft Memo 1? and include them in your Social Work Skills Portfolio.
EXERCISE 6- 4: LISTENING Recruit a friend or colleague to join you in a listening exercise. Indicate that the purpose of this exercise is to help you become a better listener. Ask your partner to identify a topic of interest that the two of you might discuss for approximately 10 minutes. As the listener, your tasks are to en-courage your partner to discuss the subject; to hear and comprehend what she or he communicates; and to remember what was said and done. Keep in mind that your partner?s perspective is para-mount. Withhold your own opinions; refrain from judgments or evaluations in both speech and thought. This is your partner?s time. Let the discussion proceed in whatever way and direction your partner wishes. Encourage him or her to communicate freely and fully, and try not to interfere with the flow of expression. As your partner talks, listen attentively and observe carefully. At the end of the 10- minute period, thank your partner and proceed with the following:
1. First, ask your partner to reflect upon her or his experience of the exchange. Then, ask your partner to give you truly honest feedback about how well you listened. Say that you sincerely want to become a better listener so that genuine feedback is needed. You might also say that whatever your partner says, your feelings will not be hurt because this is a practice exercise and you plan to improve. As you seek feedback from your partner, explore nonverbal as well as verbal factors. For instance, ask about eye contact, facial expressions, body positions and movements, physical gestures, tone of voice, rate of speech and its audibility in terms of their relationship to listening. Did your partner feel you were interested in what she or he had to say; that you understood and remembered what was said; and you were non- judgmental about her or him and what she or he said? Ask about points at which your partner felt that you listened especially well as well as those when you did not. Finally, ask your partner for suggestions about what you might do to improve upon your listening abilities and become a better listener. Thank your partner again and say goodbye. Reflect upon the exercise and your partner?s observations, then use the space pro-vided to: ( a) summarize your partner?s comments and suggestions; ( b) identify aspects of your listening skills that you would like to strengthen; and ( c) outline brief plans by which to become a better listener.
EXERCISE 6- 5: ACTIVE LISTENING In the spaces provided, write the words you might say in active listening to the following statements: 1. CLIENT: My husband thinks I?m an alcoholic. I?m here because he made me come. Sure, I drink. I drink a lot. But he?s the reason I drink.
2. CLASSMATE: I?ve missed the last three classes and don?t know what?s going on in here. Today is the day of the midterm exam and I know I?m going to flunk. I?m so ?uptight, I can?t think straight.
3. WOMAN WHO LOST HER 12- YEAR- OLD CHILD TO GANG VIOLENCE: I never wanted to live in this cesspool. We just couldn?t afford to move to another neighborhood. There are gunshots almost every night and the police rarely come by? that is, until after someone?s been killed. Drug dealers and street walkers are everywhere. I feel so guilty that my lovely daughter had to live and to die here. It?s just so unfair. If you don?t have much, you have to live where you can and that means somebody, sometime is gonna die.
4. SUPERVISOR: I am disappointed that you did not follow up on the Sanchez case. You know those children are at risk and I expected you to visit them again last week.
5. PROFESSOR: I wonder if the match between your personal values and those of the social work profession is a good one. From your comments in class and the papers you?ve written, it seems to me that your views differ quite a bit from those of most social ?workers.
6. SOCIAL WORK COLLEAGUE: I am working with a family that is driving me up the wall. I know I have a problem here. I get so angry at the parents for being so passive. I work so damn hard and they don?t do a thing!
7. CHILD: Sometimes my mommy?s boyfriend is mean to her. He hits her and she ends up crying a lot. I don?t like him at all. 8. COMMUNITY LEADER: I appreciate your offer to help with our community organi-zation and development efforts. However, the social workers we?ve had before have never worked out.