Effective communication is foundational to social work practice. Sending and receiving information are complex processes involving interdependent cognitive, emotional and behavioural elements. Theories of communication provide insight into how people both formulate the information they want to impart and comprehend the information being sent to them by others. Interactions are complicated by the fact that people often convey unconscious messages about their feelings, attitudes and worldviews. As understanding what someone else means by their words and/or gestures requires some degree of interpretation, this adds another set of cognitive and affective processes. Cross-cultural encounters can pose additional communication challenges as people from different ethnic backgrounds frequently bring to bear different assumptions and perceptions regarding the social world. This chapter explores the complexity of cross-cultural communication with family members and its implications for safeguarding children, while suggesting strategies for improving practice.
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