Intercultural Awareness – Communication

Activity 19: A children’s game “Telephone”

We often interpret something differently from others. We have different approaches in communicating with others and bring different patterns from our relationships into communication.

We usually communicate in terms of right and wrong. We enter communication with defined expectations and we all use different approaches.

Telephone, a simple and fun children’s game can show us how even a simple message can lead to misunderstandings among different interlocutors. 

The misshapes of the transmitting the message often happen during communication in real life, especially when working with refugees and migrants, where the language is often a barrier.  Omitting the information can be a cause of conflict and misunderstanding in the communication and between two persons, as they do not have the same “starting point” in the communication. Even if we have the same information, we can misunderstand the other person because we interpret and define some information and notions differently. 

Activity 20: What is good communication?

Principals of non-violent communication by Marshal Rosenberg

The concept of non-violent communication (NVC) by Rosenberg introduces the notion that we all have feelings and needs behind our communication with others. The “outcome” of the communication (whether we will get in conflict with the other person or not) is depending whether our needs are met or not.

Watch this video to get the idea of what NVC is about.

Activity 21: Perception of feelings

Feelings influence our communication significantly. In communication, we react in accordance to our feelings which cause different reactions in 3 levels:  physical, mental and behavioural level – e. g. when feeling scared, a person can “freeze” (physical level); can’t think (mental level) and hides (behavioural level). The exercise helps us to recognize our reactions on different levels.

Activity 22: Principals of connecting communication

Active listening is the key to connecting communication (CC). It establishes the safe and accepting environment in which a person can open and express honestly.

The 4 principals of CC:

–                Observing (without evaluation)

–                Expressing feelings

–                Expressing needs

–                Requesting (not demanding that someone does something that we want)

Active listening is:

  • Silent presence – we listen and look the other person in the eyes, we give them the feeling that we are there and listening
  • Summarizing – we only summarize what we think the person has said to make sure that we understood them or ask questions only if we didn’t understand something
  • Focusing on the essential – not asking different questions to satisfy our curiosity but only e.g. on the feelings and needs, values etc.
  • Being aware of what is going on with a person – e.g. trying to feel what there are feeling

Active listening IS NOT:

  • Giving advices – “You should take this job, it is a good job.
  • Interrupting the person by talking own story – “Yes, this is just what happened to me and I…”
  • Questioning – asking questions that don’t have anything to do with person’s feelings and needs, e.g. “And what he said to that. What happened next? Are you sure, this is what happened?”
  • Pitying someone – e.g. “Oh, poor you…”

Disconnecting communication, from which the conflicts can arise) is:

  • Moralistic judgments and evaluations
  • Comparisons
  • Blaming
  • Not taking responsibility for own actions and feelings
  • Labelling

We are not used to talk or even to think about our feelings and needs, we are often not even aware of them. On the other hand, we need to learn how to listen so other person also feels heard, meaning that we take into account his/hers feelings and needs. The activity invites participants to think about a conflict situation they remember. Through the activity, the participants get a different insight into their feeling and needs and in the feelings and needs of others and start understanding the conflict situation in a different way.

Activity 23: The communication at work, working with refugees – role play

Based on the theory mentioned in previous activities (connecting communication), this exercise enables us to reflect on situation which can happen while working with refugees. The participants will get to experience what the other person may be feeling and experiencing in the same situation.

  • SUB-MODULE – Burnout and setting the limits

Research show most helpers who provide psycho-social support and assistance to refugees, or other persons in distress, do not recognise the worrying signs of emotional exhaustion or burnout in themselves. People working with refugees are exposed on a daily basis to significant workload and stressors associated with a very specific, chaotic and demanding work environment. Ongoing exposure to the traumas experienced by refugees requires a lot of energy, making workers susceptible to becoming emotionally overwhelmed or burned out. The quality of work delivered by helpers providing psychosocial help and support to refugees is linked to their health and well-being. Negative consequences of emotional exhaustion are experienced not only by the workers themselves, but also by the refugees whom they are assisting.

Although difficulties and distress caused by significant ongoing exposure to the refugee situation cannot be completely eliminated, the burden borne by helpers can be mitigated by the use of different measures at the individual and organizational level.

Activity 24: Burnout and emotional exhaustion of workers helping refugees and migrants

»Only by caring for oneself is one able to fully help others«. (Nancy B. Roof 1994)

Research show most workers providing psychosocial support to refugees do not recognise the worrying signs of emotional exhaustion or burnout in themselves. People working with refugees are exposed on a daily basis to significant workload stresses associated with a very specific, chaotic and demanding work environment. Ongoing exposure to the traumas experienced by refugees requires a lot of energy, making workers susceptible to becoming emotionally overwhelmed or burned out. The quality of work delivered by workers providing psychosocial support to refugees is linked to their health and well-being. Negative consequences of emotional exhaustion are experienced not only by the workers themselves, but also by the refugees whom they are assisting.

Although difficulties and distress caused by significant ongoing exposure to the refugee situation cannot be completely eliminated, the burden borne by psychosocial assistants can be mitigated by the use of different measures at the individual and organizational level.

EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION

  • The state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion due to prolonged involvement in emotional burdensome situations (Pines in Arnson 2011).
  • A response to a chronic emotional burden in the constant work with people, especially if they are in need or have problems (Schmiedel 2011).
  • Chronic state of extreme psychophysical and emotional exhaustion (Pšeničny 2006).

Burnout = INTERSECION OF stress + depression + exhaustion

 

CAUSES

  • PERSONAL FEATURES
    introversion, neuroticism and self-confidence
  • ENVIRONMENT
    work overload, lack of control, insufficient remuneration, absence of a solid community, lack of fairness and a conflict of values (Maslach and Leiter 2002)
    à Negative impact on physical and mental health, relations, work efficiency and workplace satisfaction

3 DIMENSIONS

  • Depersonalization

negative and insensitive attitude towards users

  • Emotional exhaustion

lack of enthusiasm and empathy towards users

  • Reduced personal fulfilment

sense of personal incompetence and inefficiency in work environment

WHY?

  • lack of success
  • inability to help
  • lack of visible progress
  • frequent contact with users
  • working with „difficult cases“…

(Maslach in Jakson, Farber in Heifetz1982)

PREVENTION

  1. A) EXTERNAL SUPPORT
  • environment (home)
  • organization
  • measures at the national / international level
  1. B) INTERNAL SUPPORT (SELF-HELP)
  • social contacts à family, friends, co-workers
  • leisure activities à hobbies
  • concern for basic needs à setting your limits – saying NO!

ADDITIONAL LITERATURE

  • Guidelines for the primary prevention of mental, neurological and psychosocial disorders. 5: Staff burnout. Geneva: Division of mental health, World health organization. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/60992/1/WHO_MNH_MND_94.21.pdf.
  • Lim, Andrew George in Shwee Oo, Eh Kalu. 2015. Chapter 9: Vicarious Traumatization and Resilience of Health Workers. 219-241. V Allden, Kathleen, Nancy Murakami, and Cynthia Maung. 2015. Trauma and Recovery on War’s Border. A Guide for Global Health Workers. Dartmouth: Dartmouth College Press.
  • Lopes Cardozo, Barbara, Gotway Crawford, Carol, Eriksson, Cynthia, Zhu, Julia, Sabin, Miriam, Ager, Alastair Foy, David, Snider, Leslie, Scholte, Willem, Kaiser, Reinhard, Olff, Miranda, Rijnen, Bas and Simon Winnifred. 2012. Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study. PLoS ONE 7(9).
  • Roof B., Nancy. 1994. The impact of War on Humanitarian Service Providers: a workbook on Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout. Zagreb: Center for Psychology and Social Change.
  • Shah Siddharth Ashvin, Garland Elizabeth in Katz Craig. 2007. Secondary Traumatic Stress: Prevalence in Humanitarian Aid Workers in India. Traumatology, Volume 13, Number 1, 59-70. Sage Publications.
  • Warner, Rosemary. 2006. Report of Preliminary Desk Research on the Front Line Stress Management Project.
  • World Health Organization, War Trauma Foundation and World Vision International. 2011. Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers. WHO: Geneva.

Activity 25: Drawing our social network

We could imagine our social network as concentric circles. The circles represent our social network – people we know. First (the smallest and the nearest) circle includes people who are the closest to us (family and close friends). Second circle includes other relatives and friends, third – co-workers and other (not so close) friends and so on, until the people we know just barely. We always fill the first circle first – it is the condition to form bigger ones. It is our need to fill the first circles and essential for continuing to next ones.

Usually, all of person`s circles include at least couple of people. When we start working with somebody, we put him/her in the last circle, but he/she can slowly proceed to the closer ones as we get to know him/her. Refugees and migrants we work with often don`t have a wide social network – usually the first circles can be (almost) empty (especially with refugees), so they put social worker/volunteer directly to the first circle. They also behave like that, for example calling the social worker/volunteer »my friend«, constantly wanting to spend time with him/her, and inviting her/him to his place… It is easier to understand why this happens if you draw the social network. Refugees often left their family and close friends in their home country and they don`t have many close friends in host country when they arrive, so they put social worker in their place (first circle) to fill the emptiness. In these cases, we have to be careful how to react – how to set limits without insulting people.