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Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Human Services

Management of Human Services means the management and coordination of any organization actively involved in humanistic or volunteer work, in the support of people and communities. Adequate communication and well-established interaction is fundamentally important for the successful work of employees of such services. Communication between employees implies both verbal interaction and non-verbal communication, which significantly determines the situation in the team.

Trust is essentially one of the fundamental principles of successful interaction between organizations like Human Services. Many of these organizations are volunteer and unprofitable, that is, their interests in nature are humanistic. It is for this reason that a merger or interaction between two or more similar organizations occurs on the basis of a reputation based on philanthropy. Thus, trust is a prerequisite for a dialogue that takes place in a highly ethical manner. Therefore, Human Services representatives in particular require highly developed verbal and non-verbal communication skills. This is necessary so that, in the ethical purity of aspirations, none of the negotiating parties could have a hint of misunderstanding or conflict.

Study Background

Communication and its effectiveness in the context of human services have attracted the attention of researchers for a long time. Some scholars seek to understand how modern technologies can improve and enhance the interaction process between individuals. The scope of that interest includes social media platforms (Krynski et al., 2018), computer- (Ziegler, 2016), and smartphone-mediated (Kim, 2017) communications. The authors argue that technology usage may significantly advance the level of provided services. However, they assert that low digital literacy may slow the implementation of computerized products into practice. Other researchers are interested in determining the barriers that hinder the understanding between people. For instance, the former may include language, cultural and gender differences between interacting parties (Norouzinia et al., 2016).

However, the prevalent number of studies seeks to investigate the characteristics and skills necessary for social workers to interact with people who are in need of help competently. In this regard, one of the most successful theories that sought to analyze the communication process and articulate what defines its success is Berlo’s SMCR model (Muyanga & Phiri, 2020). The first letter, “S,” stands for “source” of the communication and includes the communication skills, attitudes, knowledge, and culture of the speaker. Next, “M” means “message” that the speaker produces its elements, structure, and content. The third letter stands for “channel” through which the message is exchanged, such as visual, audial, or haptic means. Moreover, it includes verbal and non-verbal methods of communication between individuals. Finally, “R” means “receiver” of the message, his/her interaction skills, culture, knowledge, and attitudes. The current study would only concentrate on the first part of Berlo’s framework, namely the source of the communication, which is human service employees (Muyanga & Phiri, 2020).

The Importance of Communication in Profession

Every social worker needs to be aware of the power of influence that can always have a pivotal impact on the recipient of the service. Dialogue is essentially a mirror of the employee’s relationship to the recipient and therefore the employee should be especially careful in choosing an ethical relationship with his interlocutor. Social adequacy and overcoming the dialogic inconvenience should be the priority basis of the social worker. It must be remembered that every ethically wrong action or careless remark can be indelible and therefore requires special care and tolerance. A social worker must remember his place in the ethical and psychological hierarchy, which implies the humanity of their activities. The client’s mental health and peace of mind may actually be directly dependent on the social worker, as the need for dialogue may in fact be triggered by an acute sense of loneliness. This psychological and social situation in itself is frequent, and the problem of loneliness of the elderly is already an object of sociological research. This problem is especially acute in the context of current realities, in which lockdown and social uncertainty have become new conditions of existence. No less acute in this way is the problem of communications in the field of social services, where the system of communications is subject to overloads and technical and economic complications.

Communication Barriers During COVID-19 Pandemic

Communication with the elderly and, in principle, any vulnerable members of society is actually complicated by the situation of a pandemic and social and economic shocks. The most vulnerable social groups, in one way or another, find themselves most susceptible to social and psychological pressure during periods of tension and change. And that is why social workers must provide the necessary communication median between them and the world. The communication models that social workers can offer should not be exhausted by the possibilities of conversation as a direct interaction.

Technology Adaptation for Communication Purposes

The need to maintain social distance leads to an obviously ensuing need to seek new strategies to keep the conversation going. Teaching older people about video conferencing, social networking and media and more generally online communication could make life easier for a whole generation. The ability to enjoy dialogue across distances and share news without having the opportunity to visit should be especially appreciated in our time. Social workers also need to be gentle, responsive and pedagogical in order not to discourage older generations from using technology. This is how social workers have the opportunity to build real bridges between generations, connecting people in need with the outside world.

This is especially important at the very moment when communications of the traditional type may turn out to be more sparse or complicated. Thus, through communication on the Internet and social integration that encourages this and adapts to this type of communication, we have new communication strategies. Internet communication belongs to a new type of media and lies somewhere in the middle between verbal and non-verbal. But it is precisely on the social skills of the teacher, that is, the social worker, that the communication of the needy with the outside world in its digital form ultimately depends.

Necessary Skills for Successful Interaction


The attitude of a volunteer or social worker to a client requires sensitivity and empathy, since this vocation itself is fundamentally humanistic (Moss, 2017). However, the communicative model of a social worker, implying tolerance and sensitivity, has its own drawbacks for the psyche of the worker himself. The fact is that, being based on the empathic perception of the interlocutor, this model tends to penetrate and deeply feel the emotional and psychological state of the other person. Such a deep penetration into someone else’s psyche through communication can lead to the loss of the ability to objectively judge and psychologically evaluate their actions from the standpoint of their own personality.

The need to empathize with the interlocutor, regardless of whether they are in a vulnerable social group or not, can be a difficult psychological test. Often, social workers and volunteers experience burnout, that is, a crisis associated with the inability to provide people with adequate support. Often this is also associated with the growth of a cynical attitude towards things where it was previously not typical. Thus, sensitivity and empathy in communication with clients of social services can prove to be a test for the representative of the Services in the long term.

Moreover, the ability to perceive other people’s problems empathically without taking them over helps to avoid not only psychological burnout, but also other unacceptable psychological consequences of volunteer work. One of these psychologically difficult syndromes is depersonalization, which expresses the inability to interact more emotionally with the problems of other people (Powers and Myers, 2020). Based on how serious the problem of difficulty of emotional perception in the context of communication with clients of the Services can go, a rethinking of the psychological approach to the service is required. It is important to realize that the psychological pressure experienced by the employee can only be resolved by him independently. At the same time, the communication model chosen by the employee of Human Services should not be within the framework of automatism. The internal and external dialogue of the social worker should be fluid and open to making corrections and comments.

Active Listening

Listening to your client is a necessary skill to provide sufficient psychological flexibility and trusting interaction between the client and his service personnel. Non-verbal skills often imply precisely this in communication – the ability to wordlessly tune in to the emotional wave that the client needs so much. Therefore, compliance with the conditions of non-verbal articulation and wordless etiquette, as well as the ability not to break a monologue by asking leading questions, is necessary for a social services specialist. This skill is necessary in medical practice and allows a patient to overcome not only psychological fears and barriers, but also real speech or thinking disorders (Azevedo et al., 2017). Thus, given the demographic overlap between patients and those in need of social volunteer support, the skill of verbal and non-verbal dialogue is fundamental.

The Ability to Collaborate

Collaboration also seems to be fundamental to successful communication in social services. At the same time, collaboration means not only the interaction between the agents of social services, which should be established at the level of both the culture of interaction and the ethics of direct execution. It requires not only communication and flexibility of the system of social services, since a collaborative attitude towards the recipient of social services is also important. The recipient should feel that they are in an opportunity not only to receive help, but also to improve it by clearly articulating their needs and requirements. This openness to dialogue and interaction in order to improve the quality of service and implies the cooperation and collaboration required as a work ethic for social workers.

Cultural awareness

Cultural awareness and high tolerance towards representatives of other ethnic and social groups are of fundamental importance in the communication of social services with recipients. It is necessary to realize that among the wounded social elements who need help, there may often be representatives of another culture who have difficulties in adapting or finding understanding. It is on finding a common language and overcoming possible linguistic and cultural barriers that a social worker should focus on. Ethical, religious, racial and cultural openness, tolerance and acceptance of diversity are required for the dialogue between the social worker and his client to be as trusting and open as possible. Ethnic diversity, differences in religious beliefs and, in general, taking into account the uniqueness of the individual perspective of another person should accompany the settings of the social worker’s communication models.

Communication with different age groups

As important as the ability to interact with the elderly, the skills of a social worker in working with adolescents and children are also required. Often, human service workers have to interact with adolescents who are vulnerable to society and who have difficulty integrating into it (Winter et al., 2017). These difficulties can be both psychological and social, and physical, congenital, and the social worker needs special sensitivity and patience so that communication is not disturbed. The main principle of interaction with a difficult teenager should be the connection, the search for a real connection without which communication is impossible. The social worker should talk with adolescents about goals in their life, ethics, norms of a harmonious society and life with oneself.

It seems natural that these fundamentally important topics can be adequately voiced and perceived only if adolescents feel that their interlocutor is on an equal footing with them. This seeming equality of social positions is achieved psychologically and directly through the ability to establish communication. It is important not only to speak, but also to listen, to be able to adapt the ideas that the social worker carries in a context that will seem relevant and understandable to the teenager. It is important not to try to speak the language of a teenager, but to find a language that is comfortable for oneself, which will let the teenager understand that they are communicating with him naturally and naturally, without losing the basic professional attitudes. Thus, the social worker has the opportunity to make one of the noblest and most valuable achievements in his profession. A social worker is able, with the help of communication, to positively influence the course of a young person’s life, to establish their navigation in the outside world.


In summary, verbal and non-verbal communication skills are of fundamental importance for any social worker. As stated by Berlo’s SMCR framework, the overall successful interaction should include the source, message, channel, and receiver, where each factor determines the final outcome (Muyanga & Phiri, 2020). However, it can be argued that the producer of the message is the cornerstone of the whole system as he/she is the initiator of the communication. Therefore, the current paper analyzed which characteristics and qualities should the source of the message possess in order to ensure clear and appropriate information transmission.

It was determined that social workers should be able to establish a dialogue within the team and in the interaction between numerous types of human services ensures the well-organized work of teams as a system. This harmony, achieved through an understanding of common goals and means, is able to bring social services closer to people in the difficult conditions of our time. The ability of a social worker to show real empathy to his/her client, to help him/her not only formally, but also humanly, is no less valuable. Well-developed communication skills, which include the ability to speak and also to listen, help people in need of social assistance to feel less alienated from society and are truly motivated to interact with it.


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"Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Human Services." ApeGrade, 25 Jan. 2023, apegrade.com/verbal-and-non-verbal-communication-in-human-services/.

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ApeGrade. "Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Human Services." January 25, 2023. https://apegrade.com/verbal-and-non-verbal-communication-in-human-services/.


ApeGrade. 2023. "Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Human Services." January 25, 2023. https://apegrade.com/verbal-and-non-verbal-communication-in-human-services/.


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