Q&A: Communication, Creativity & Mentoring
Claire is a Mentor, an art therapist, a dog-lover and recently won our AIMWA Scholarship. She used her training voucher to undertake a course in Effective Communication. She shares some valuable insight on the importance of communication in reducing social isolation.
Could you share a bit about who you are? Hi, my name is Claire and I’ve been a Mentor at Inclusion WA for almost a year now. I am also an art therapist and enjoy doing anything creative in my spare time. I’m slightly obsessed with dogs and enjoy yoga and being out in nature.
Congratulations on winning the $1500 training scholarship from the Australian Institute of Management WA. Can you tell us why you chose the Effective Communication course?
I chose this course as I believe building trust and solid rapport is imperative to the client-mentor relationship and effective communication is the foundation of this. Mentoring involves close communication with not only our clients, but their families and additional supports and I wanted to strengthen my skills in order to feel more comfortable dealing with a wider range of situations so that we can work together as a cohesive unit to best support the client’s needs.
What are the three most useful things you learnt?
What the different styles of communication are, as identifying these when dealing with each person allows me to take things less personally or see where they are coming from.
What my own communication style is and how it impacts the kind of responses I get from my clients.
The importance of flexibility when dealing with communication barriers.
Being a Mentor means working alongside people at increased risk of experiencing social isolation. Do you believe communication plays an important role in this? Lack of communication essentially leads to lack of information which in turn can impact the way our clients are received by the wider community, often generating stigma. As Mentors we work so closely with our clients out and about in their daily lives. It’s important to role model how people should be treated and challenge any misconceptions. We do this not by singling out our clients and making them different, but treating them as we would anyone else, as an integral part of the community.
How has being a Mentor impacted your understanding and approach to communication? I’ve learnt how to tailor how I communicate with each individual as we all have different ways of understanding the world around us. The longer I work with a client, the better I get to know what works and doesn't work, how to phrase my words to get the best response, what helps motivate them, etc. I’ve learnt to be much clearer in how I deliver information and to break it down in steps for clarity. Often it becomes less about verbal communication and more about reading body language and picking up subtle cues as you begin to work in synchronicity.
If you could give your younger-self one piece of advice relating to communication, what would it be? Everyone deserves the right to be heard because we all have something unique to offer the world.
What is a highlight or “win” you’ve had in your role? I recently dealt with an unexpected conflict where I needed to deescalate a situation which was threatening my client’s mental health and safety. In the past, I was not confident in my communication skills and my first reaction would have been to want to avoid the situation all together, but because of the skills I’ve acquired throughout the past year, I was able to be both calm and assertive and gently remove my client from the situation, whilst the offending party respectfully (and unexpectedly) backed down.
Why do you do this work? My husband passed away from Motor Neurone Disease many years ago. I watched the process of him slowly giving up on things he enjoyed that he was convinced he couldn’t do anymore. I would use my creativity to think of out of the box ideas to tailor his experiences so he could still actively participate and not miss out on things because of his declining health. I enjoy using the same approach in my mentoring. Flexibility and a creative perspective helps transcend barriers and I think this is a valuable skill that transfers to any part of life. The willingness to adapt is imperative to our community and how we work together to include people from all walks of life plays an important role in how we function as a society.
Thank you for your contribution and sharing your wisdom, Claire!
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