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Professional communication => relationship

This text is taken from a manual for youth workers on how to develop a professional relationship with young people so that the relationship is educational.

Why did I choose this tool? I chose this tool because of its simplicity as an introduction to the educational relationship that can be achieved while working with groups of (young) people. In order to establish a relationship with a learner as a skill, the main approaches for creating professional relationship need to be internalized, practiced and reflected.

How does this apply to being a trainer? A youth worker and a trainer in the youth field both do educational interventions. One of the ways to do so is by establishing an educational programme and following it. Another way is to develop a relationship with the participants that goes beyond the program, as many learners agree (unpublished research done in 2016-2018 by Garbauskaitė-Jakimovska) that most of their learning during non-formal education activities happens outside of the program through dialogue.

Main content:

“We are talking about professional communication, which is different from an everyday chat with a good friend. Professional communication is purposeful and directed, i.e. it has a certain intention, mostly related to educative purposes. This type of communication, whether we like it or not, is an intervention per se which determines the course and dynamics of further interrelations. Professional communication can be compared to a creative process, in other words each situation with a young person or group is unique and unrepeatable. In this type of communication, it is more important not to focus on the question “Am I communicating in a right or wrong way?”, but rather “What is the effect of my communication on this young person? How effective is my communication?”

The famous philosopher and pedagogue M. Buber describes a key aspect of professional communication, when working with (young) people as being able to act according to the principle of a dialogue (ME-YOU). This ability is one of the main conditions if you want to start an activity based on methods.

In order to be more specific about this ability, we want to pay special attention to the following aspects:

a) the ability to establish stable work relationships. Work relationships are directed at a target group <…> These relationships have a certain (educative) goal. The ability to avoid reacting to situations ‘personally’ is also critical in a healthy work relationship. Since initial contact is not always made based on free will, it is important to be able to evaluate how, when and based on what intention the relationship is established, to know the context, stabilize the relationship, react to positive and negative feedback, and evaluate the quality of relationship.

b) the ability to create communication encouraging situations. Professional relationships are always ‘marginal’, i.e. you can easily lose a ‘spirit’ (young person, learner) if something goes wrong. Therefore the relationship has to be taken care of, it has to be nurtured and renewed. Each communication happens via multiple channels, it is a rather big challenge to workers – they have to perceive and ‘decode’ the ‘messages’.

c) the ability to understand according to the principle of a dialogue. Here it is important to know that people (re)construct their realities, and therefore their understanding, subjectively. While trying to empathize with a young person, it is necessary to understand their motives of behaviour and their worries. We often think we ‘understand’ another person and their worries, when actually we ‘diagnose according to ourselves’. This is one of the traps of ‘hearing’ a real concern or need. It is always useful to check your perceptions together with a young person.

d) the ability to negotiate and find agreement according to the principle of a dialogue. It is necessary for a youth worker to have the desire and ability to negotiate and look for answers to relevant questions and dilemmas – In which direction do we want to move? What common goals do we want to set? What responsibilities can each side take? Since youth work is based on cooperation between a young person and an educator, ‘pushing forward’ your own approach as ‘more right’ is counterproductive to the principles of education, even if it is based on professional argument or right.

e) the ability to be ‘multilingual’. A youth worker faces not only young people, but also other ‘actors’ within the youth arena (parents, communities, city councils, other institutions, cultures, different interests). Various interactions (interrelations) occur between them and the youth, sometimes with the help of youth workers, sometimes not. Therefore it is important that the youth worker understands, talks and ‘translates’ the ‘linguistic codes’ that prevail among the mentioned groups.

f) the ability to create communication networks. Creation of communication networks is a common work of different professional groups for the good of youth. Socially active people and volunteers can also make a contribution. In Lithuania it is not easy and simple to cooperate and communicate on inter-institutional levels, for different reasons. Providing institutional help systematically is currently one of the greatest challenges, although some positive tendencies are noticeable on the local level.” (Gailius et al., 2013)

Reflection questions:

  • Which parts of the tool are more relevant to trainers than others?
  • What makes a relationship educational?
  • When are your conversations with participants chit-chats and when are they educational?
  • What challenges does a dialogue bring into a training programme?

Exercises:

How to apply it in everyday life:

  • Reflect on the communication and educational relationship with a colleague
  • Analyse a situation when you reacted to the participants’ behaviour personally. What happened? What would have helped to take it to the professional level of communication?
  • Establish a plan (list of measures) what you will do on the next educational activity in order to create an educational relationship with participants.

Author of the article: Justina Garbauskaitė-Jakimovska

Justina Garbauskaitė-Jakimovska is a freelance educator and researcher in the field of non-formal learning and youth who also works in the teacher training programmes at Vilnius University in Lithuania. Favourite topics are facilitation of learning, personal and professional development. Justina is also a member of the Pool European Youth Researchers, her research interests are non-formal learning process, how learners experience and make sense out of it, the professional development of youth workers and trainers in the youth field. All of this combined = evidence based practices + practice informed research.

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Editor: Donatas Petkauskas

is professional supervisor, coach and experiential learning trainer, having more than 15 years of experience in consulting various organizations and individuals, creating and conducting training course on national and international levels. Donatas has extensive experience in non-formal education, training of youth workers and trainers. He is working in the field of non-formal education since 2003, since 2004 he is a member of trainers pool of Lithuanian National Agency (currently an alumni).

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Gailius et al. (2013). Handbook for people working with youth groups: Non-formal education practice in Lithuania.Gailius et al. (2013). Handbook for people working with youth groups: Non-formal education practice in Lithuania.Photo by clark cruz from Pexels
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