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OF mental health care and mentally ill

Promoting collaborative speaking styles

Friendliness, confidence and attentiveness can encourage the development of a trusting relationship (McQueen 2000) but there is also a need to ascertain the extent to which clients want to participate in their care.

Be aware that some clients may find initial approaches overwhelming especially if they have been used to being patronized by traditional methods of care. To promote collaborative speaking styles and thereby positive working alliances, it is essential to bear in mind the communication style used and the manner in which we portray ourselves. For example, consider your reaction when a hairdresser, using a singing inflection and a somewhat supercilious tone in their voice asks, ‘Could you put your head on one side for me?’ The phrase is said routinely and as matter of habit, which female clients seldom feel is worth challenging. Do nurses fall into the same wellmeaning, but somewhat thoughtless practice when they change their tone of voice and ask things like ‘Should we do this today?’

The attitude behind this approach infantilizes the client and infers a weakness in their position, as supplicant. The client’s weakness is reinforced by the depersonalizing change of voice. This inflection and style of approach is best avoided. The message that we all share a common humanity can be conveyed by the manner in which we treat and talk to people. So the next time you interact with a client or carer – stop for a moment and take note of the tone you are using, and then ask yourself, ‘Do I speak to colleagues whom I respect, in this way?’

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