We have learned that people are experts in their own experience. It is therefore imperative that peer supporters are able to listen to and share stories and experiences that validate those experiences and develop relationships.
Communication is a two-way process where information is given and received between two or more individuals. It is essential to ensure that what is being said and what is being received has similar meaning to each individual within the conversation. How we communicate within the peer support relationship can be a powerful tool, and there is a range of techniques we can use to make our communication more intentional.
For example, the use of recovery language can show empathy and understanding while promoting hope and empowerment. The process of active listening will aid this. Communication is therefore the vehicle for building strong relationships. How we convey information, get across our intent, build trust, and develop mutuality is contingent upon it.
Communication isn’t just limited by what we say — it’s about what we write, how we listen, how we speak (the language and tone we use), which questions we ask, and how our attention is conveyed. It also includes our body language, which we will go on to consider in more detail later in this module.
To communicate effectively, we need to understand how and why we’re saying the things we’re saying (or not saying) and that what we’re hearing is only one story among many possibilities. In other words, when we listen to someone we hear a version of their story — that is, what they’ve chosen to share with us based on their assumptions about who we are, and how they currently see themselves at this moment in time.
When we listen with genuine curiosity and interest we listen to what is being said, how it’s being said and what’s not being said. We listen for how this person has learned to think/see/ understand things in this way.