The importance of explaining yourself

Published in Features on 8 Dec 2014

There is a ‘Little Britain’ sketch that stands out for me and it is the one of the computer saying no, because it so cleverly and clearly explains what it can feel like for a customer/patient/user to be confronted with a job worth system. I feel the biggest reason most people make a complaint or become frustrated is not necessarily the decision that has been made, but rather that the decision has not been properly explained to them in a manner they understand.

As the Little Britain sketch shows, repeating the same statement again and again is not helpful, and its simply going to make the person at the receiving end frustrated until they reach the point they will explode, becoming aggressive. Since ‘organisations’  often now have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on aggressive behaviour, the victim is turned into the perpetrator, making the situation much worst as the frustration is multiplied.

If someone does not understand what you have said to them, the communication ‘transaction’ has failed. You have a responsibility to establish what parts of what you have said they have understood, and what parts they still find a mystery. You have may to dig deep to discover what is the key piece of information they may be missing that will be a central piece in the jigsaw to them understanding the situation.

It is also important to understand you may be facing a situation where you have to support a service user who has been made fragile, almost pickled, by the poor communication of others, making them defensive and untrusting. You may be the first person in authority that is willing to hear their story from the start, and try to explain the situation from the side of the so-called professionals. Often, you will need to deal with the issues important to service users in order to calm them down enough to be able to focus on the reason you are meeting them.

The effects of bad communication and frustration can not simply be seen as being superficial because the reality is the resultant stress can seriously impact on someone’s emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as causing drug or alcohol dependency, obesity and even very sadly, suicide. If people can not understand why something is happening to them, as well as reaching a paranoid state due to the stress and worry of not understanding, it can quickly turn into a vicious circle as people get themselves deeper into a dark hole.

Sometimes people may not need services or funding from you, but simply your time to meet them face to face to explain what is happening even if you are not responsible for it, since I believe this is the whole notion of quality social work. By empowering someone to have that eureka moment in relation to their situation, other pieces of the jigsaw can fit into place, potentially improving their quality of life without the need for additional services or funding.