In my research with people who live in the crisis of poverty, 92% reported that when they leave a helping professional (social worker, teacher, health care worker, or legal professional), they are confused and often do not know what to do next. Communication is complex. If you are talking to someone with a similar background to you, there is a 50% chance you will have misunderstandings. Think about how often you have said something, thinking you were perfectly clear, only to discover what they heard is not even close to what you were communicating.
Helping professionals often report sharing resources and/or opportunities with children, families, and caregivers only to learn there was no follow-through. They also find that comments they have said or paperwork they have given with explicit instructions does not seem to get through to the people they are working to help. The misunderstandings increase when we are communicating with people who have had different lived experiences.
In this session, I offer tools for communicating and relating across poverty barriers. These tips will provide you with strategies to ensure the message you are sending is actually being received. I will also briefly explore strategies for online communications with folks who live in the war zone of poverty.
I will start by sharing an overview of two distinct styles of communication that connects to socio-economic status: Oral and Print. Print Culture style of communication is linked to middle class, while Oral Culture style is linked to poverty. In his worldwide research, the American Jesuit priest and professor of English literature Walter Ong, S.J. found that people who lived in poverty tend to communicate in a word-of-mouth oral style, which means they get information by asking other people.
In my research, I linked oral culture characteristics with the realities of poverty that shape worldview. For example, one characteristic of oral culture is that it is relationship-based. If you get information about living your life from people, you place relationships above everything else. Poverty teaches that people are more important than any object or experience. Understanding the characteristics of oral culture communication gives insight into the “whys” behind human behavior and our natural way of communicating with others.
Print culture communication is learned through literacy. People who have the luxury to become literate gain specific skillsets that benefit them in education and the workplace. Print culture communication styles come from getting primary information from reading. When you seek information for living your life from reading, you develop skills such as linear abstract thought processes and the ability to focus on one idea at a time.
Ong taught that neither oral nor print are “better” styles, but in the United States the skillsets associated with print are rewarded and valued. Ong encouraged a balance. He believed we were losing valuable human skills by devaluing oral culture characteristics such as the ability to be spontaneous and develop meaningful relationships. Honoring oral culture communication and assisting people in gaining the skillsets associated with print is a strategy that works for improving communication.
Hopefully, this mini-session has whet your appetite to delve deeper into the fascinating subject of communicating and relating across ALL barriers. On Thursday, June 4th at 10:30 am Pacific Time, join us for a 90-minute webinar that offers knowledge and strategies for improving communication and relationships. Registration is now open.
See you next Wednesday for more Poverty and Pandemic FB live at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
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