Are We Speaking the Same Language? Leveraging Conversational Language to Engage Clients

Are We Speaking the Same Language? Leveraging Conversational Language to Engage Clients
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2019-10-30
Unit 1Slide Deck: Are We Speaking the Same Language
Unit 2Workbook: Are We Speaking the Same Language
Unit 3Recording: Are We Speaking the Same Language

How a message is delivered is just about as important as the message itself. Sometimes, we think that people may have problems acting upon things we tell them. But did it ever occur to us that perhaps the problem lies on how we communicate that makes it difficult for them to respond? Perhaps we’re setting them to fail because we don’t know better – something critical in the field of probation. This course ought to shift our communication style so that we’re setting up people for success.

Michelle Hart, James Newman, and Herb Sinkinson are the instructors for this webinar. Michelle is Coconino County’s Deputy Chief Probation Officer with an extensive experience in probation working with various populations and units. James is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for cFive. He fuses Criminal Justice with Information Technology and works with top criminal justice organizations. Finally, Herb served in different roles for Vermont’s probation, parole and corrections and championed restorative justice within Vermont and the US.

On this session, James will discuss communication concepts while Michelle and Herb provide real-world examples and applications of these. Specifics covered include:

  • Understanding communication based on the number of information we’re all subjected to in a day and the length of time needed to get back on track from a distraction.
  • The characteristics, key elements, and rules of engagement of an effective and conversational written communication.
  • Conversational language that results in better comprehension, retention, engagement and connection with the reader, and drives critical thinking.
  • How conversational written communication is applied in community supervision.
  • How conversational language has the ability to transcend common communication barriers, boost readability and comprehension, influence credibility, build rapport and spark problem solving.
    • The average reading level in the US and adjusting our written and spoken language to this by running readability tests.
    • Common culprits that negatively affect readability and comprehension.
    • How better communication results in trust, better buy-in and cooperation.
    • Communicating in a manner that doesn’t create information overload or require processing too much information.
    • Examples on how vague wording may cause misunderstanding.
  • How shifting into a conversational communication style is essential in Coconino County’s client centered adult probation approach.
    • Incorporating conversational language from the get-go in the role clarification meeting to the case plans.
    • Recommended changes on written and spoken communication to better engage probation clients.
    • How these changes influence buy-in and accountability.
  • Seeing conversational language and communication as a new tool that positively impacts community supervision without the need for tedious training or certification to implement.
  • Questions from the webinar participants were about:
    • Getting started with the shift to conversational language.
    • Using open-ended questions to engage probation clients.
    • How to affect change on all the people within your agency.
    • Getting clients to be actively engaged on their EPICs homework.

Resources from this Webinar:


Audience Comments:

  • “The way we phrase things when interacting with clients or other providers can make a big difference in how the information or question is received.” — Wendy
  • “I liked the materials and conversation with Michelle. Honestly, the whole webinar was different than I expected but very good quality materials for practical application!” — Barb
  • “How to ensure that you are speaking in a language and tone that your client understands.” — Brittany
  • “I like that it was interactive. Glad to hear justice reforms are getting more traction across the nation.” — Christopher
  • “The importance of clear and non-offense terms/language in developing rapport and buy-in from criminal justice-involved people.” — Daniel
  • “The attitude of approach, “I’m not here to ‘catch them’ I’m here to coach them” — Joe
  • “The information was current and supports the fact that the client should be met where they are and treated with respect.” — Kyomi
  • “The example of asking a question and then asking participants what you thought the question meant — it demonstrated that what you might think is clear can actually be interpreted in different ways by different recipients and you need to be sure you’re asking the right question to get the right answer. I would like to see this type of training but may be advanced or specific to supervisors — more like “how to have difficult conversations” but with examples of discussing disciplinary action.” — Kelly
  • “The idea of writing how you speak – I plan to take a look at our forms to see how they read & how to improve upon them.” — Melinda
  • “I really appreciated the phrase “I am here to coach you not catch you….” and will share this with the rest of my Pretrial Services Program staff.” — Michale
  • “It is important to know that communication can affect how clients engage and how it can help facilitate our desired goals.” — Stacey


Additional Resources
1 year ago
After the Webinar: Are We Speaking the Same Language? Q&A with the Presenters
Webinar presenters Jim Newman, Michelle Hart, and Herb Sinkinson answered a number of your questions […]
1 year ago
Thoughts on Trust and Understanding from cFive’s Jim Newman
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Thoughts on Client Communications from Herb Sinkinson
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