Module 9: working with young people on AOD issues: facilitator's guide

3.2 Communication 'roadblocks'

Page last updated: 2004

People can be ambivalent about change. Too much focus by someone (e.g. counsellor, GP, family member) on the negatives of using drugs or possible positives associated with change can often lead to 'yes but' arguments and a reinforcement of the opposite side.

There are times when workers may find themselves using less effective communication responses, particularly if there is perceived resistance from a young person. This in turn can lead to high levels of frustration in workers.

Following are 12 common examples of less-than-ideal approaches to communication which are referred to as roadblocks. They were originally proposed by Thomas Gordon, the developer of 'Parent Effectiveness Training' (PET) but they are just as applicable to the worker-young person relationship. None of the 12 roadblocks listed are 'right' or 'wrong'. They are responses that may be less effective when talking to a young person about their drug use.

Twelve communication roadblocks
Recognising the roadblocks

Twelve communication roadblocks

Roadblock examples

  1. Ordering, directing, commanding: 'Don't say that.'; 'You've got to face up to reality!'; and 'You have to do something about your drug use!'

  2. Warning or threatening: 'You're really asking for trouble!'; and 'If you go down that road you'll be sorry!'

  3. Giving advice, making suggestions, providing solutions: 'Have you thought about...?'; and 'What I would do is...' 'Why don't you...?'

  4. Persuading with logic, lecturing, arguing: 'The facts are...'; 'Statistics show...'; and 'Yes, but...'

  5. Moralising, preaching or telling someone what to do: 'You should go to rehab.'; 'The best thing you could do is get a job.'; and 'You really ought to...'

  6. Disagreeing, judging, criticising or blaming: 'It's your own fault.'; 'Don't you think you ought to think of others?'; and 'Surely there's more to do than smoke dope.' Top of page

  7. Agreeing, approving, praising: 'I think you're absolutely right.'; and 'That's how I would feel if I were you.'

  8. Shaming, ridiculing or labelling: 'That's a silly way to think.'; 'You really ought to be ashamed of yourself.'; and 'How could you do such a thing?'

  9. Interpreting or analysing: 'Do you know what the real problem is?'; and 'You don't really mean that.'

  10. Over questioning or probing: 'What makes you feel that way?'; and 'Why?'

  11. Reassuring, sympathising, consoling: 'Things aren't really that bad.'; 'Don't worry – you'll look back on this in a year and laugh.'; and 'Things will turn out OK, you'll see.'

  12. Withdrawing, distracting, humouring, changing the subject: 'Let's talk about that some other time.'; 'Oh, don't be so gloomy! Look on the bright side.'; and 'You think you've got problems! Let me tell you about ...'
Often the above responses are made by well-meaning workers and although there are no hard and fast right or wrong answers, they can be roadblocks to effective communication with young people.

Recognising the roadblocks

Workplace learning activity/writing exercise, group activity

Ask learners to look through the list of 'Communication roadblocks'. Choosing at least two of the 'roadblocks', write down or discuss in small groups two professional situations where they have used a communication blocker.

Question - Describe the circumstances surrounding the situations that may have led to a 'roadblock'. Record or discuss the factors that may have contributed to the situation. (They may have been factors within yourself, your client, other staff member or within the environment.)

Question - Devise two examples of alternative skills or statements that you could have employed in this communication situation.