Part 3: Communication and Cultural Competence

Activity 3.1: Communication


This activity deals with communication. There is a video clip about supervisor-student communication, a discussion activity and a number of readings on this topic.

Video Clip: Communication

Readings for Reflection(3)


All writings on the topic of communication agree on the vital need to build rapport with your students and create an atmosphere of trust. Communication is defined as the act of transmitting information through words, gestures or signs. In other words, there are any number of ways to communicate, even without speaking!

The transmission of messages requires a sender, a message and a receiver. In this two-way process, the sender transmits a message, such as an idea or opinion, and the receiver takes it in, then responds with another message (e.g. feedback or a reply). The response completes the communication loop opened by the original transmission.

As we see from this simplified model of oral communication, the sender needs expressive ability, while the receiver must be able to listen. Clearly, the two parties take turns playing each role.

Expressive ability

Expressive ability denotes our capacity to transmit a message to someone else. It involves conveying our thoughts through word, gesture, facial expression, body movement or some other means. Successful communication requires using an appropriate tone of voice, choosing the right words (clear, respectful, at the proper language level) and ensuring that verbal and non-verbal messages match. For, non-verbal content is said to account for roughly 80 per cent of a message; verbal content represents a mere 20 per cent!

Ability to listen

Listening is necessary for completing the communication loop. For, it is listening that prepares the receiver to clearly grasp the message and then validate, answer or otherwise react to it. Here are helpful hints for proper listening:

  • Do not interrupt.
  • Focus.
  • Be attentive and sensitive to non-verbal signs.
  • Look for the message being conveyed.
  • Use non-verbal and verbal reinforcement (e.g. Uh huh! Yes! I see!)

It is also important to create conditions that promote proper listening. These include preventing distractions and choosing the time and place for communicating.

(c) 2005 CNFS – University of Ottawa component

Empathic Listening and Obstacles to Listening

Table 8-1: Empathic Skills

Adapted from Crago & Pickering (1987)



1. Accompany, “acknowledge receipt”

Use verbal or nonverbal means to show you are listening (e.g. eye contact).

2. Reformulate, paraphrase

Respond to the student’s basic verbal message.

3. Reflect

Reflect on the content, experiences or feelings “heard” through various indicators.

4. Interpret

Try to interpret feelings, desires or the meaning of what is being said.

5. Summarize, synthesize

Sum up the student’s feelings and experiences; this allows for centration.

6. Ask support questions

Try to obtain further information or clear up any confusion.

7. Feedback

Share your perceptions about the student’s ideas and feelings; disclose relevant personal information.

8. Provide support

Show warmth and attention in your own particular way.

9. Examine perceptions

Discover whether a person’s interpretation and perception are valid and accurate.

10. Remain silent

Give the student an opportunity to think and talk.

Table 8-2: Behaviours That Obstruct Listening

Adapted from Crago & Pickering (1987)



1. Deny a person’s feelings, perceptions and experiences

“You have no cause to be upset; you’re not all that bad.”

2. Advise, insist, impose

“Well, I think you should talk to the parents; it would do you good.”

3. Make negative judgments, reprimand

“You shouldn’t have done it that way.”

4. Diagnose, dissect

“You feel like this because you’re anxious about your fieldwork grade.

5. Distract, change the subject

“Here, look at these reports.”

6. Give false hope or reassurance

“I’m sure things will go well.”

7. Make stereotypical or impersonal remarks

“You’re just a typical last-year student.”

8. Be self-centred

“Why, the same thing happened to me the other day. Let me tell you about it.”

9. Interrogate

“Good grief! Why’d you say that to her?”

10. Trivialize

“It’s silly to worry about that.”

(c) 2005 Consortium national de formation en sant̩ (CNFS) РUniversity of Ottawa component

Chevalier Article – Are You Listening to Me? (pdf)

Let’s Discuss: What would you say?

If this were your colleague, how would you respond?

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