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Establishing effective communication

In this article we provide guidance on how to communicate and listen effectively in your role as a PFA practitioner.
Lady on mobile phone smiling
© Public Health England
Effective communication and learning how to listen is an important part of PFA.


Understanding how to listen will help you communicate better. Listen refers to how the helper:

  • begins the conversation
  • pays attention and listens actively
  • accepts feelings
  • calms the distressed
  • asks about needs and concerns
  • helps those in distress find solutions to their needs and problems

Opening and Closing conversations

How you open and close a conversation will help to have a more meaningful conversation with those you are supporting.

The following steps can be followed:

  • Introduce yourself and your role.
  • Be aware that wearing PPE or social distancing may impact the conversation – for example if they cannot see your face properly or your voice is muffled, or you have to stand further away than is normal. Creative approaches such as using photos of yourself may help.
  • Check that the person you are helping is happy and able to talk. Check that they have a conversational level of English and consider using an interpreter if required.
  • Establish expectations around confidentiality and the length of the interaction: you may suggest a review after an initial conversation.
  • Agree the duration of the call or visit.
  • At the end of the contact agree an action plan and any follow up with likely timescales.

If you are performing PFA as part of your normal duties these steps may be incorporated into your normal activities.

© Public Health England
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