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Part IV: Counseling with Enthusiasm and ... > Counseling People from Other Culture...

Chapter 36. Counseling People from Other Cultures

Whether you are a teacher, supervisor, youth leader or clergyman, the person opposite you in a communications session of the future may have difficulty with the English language and/or understanding our culture. In simple terms, this means the communications bridge is more difficult to cross. How should you, as a personal counselor, deal with this possibility? Here are some suggestions.

Slow down the counseling process. Use the same principles and techniques that you use with those fluent in English and already fully adjusted to our culture, but be satisfied to move at a more leisurely pace. Perhaps schedule two or three sessions instead of one.

Encourage the use of English. Most immigrants can speak more English than they at first demonstrate because they fear they might say the wrong thing. Give them the confidence to speak up as much as possible and compliment them when they do.

Inject more laughter. To give yourself more patience and help the individual relax, laugh at your attempts to understand each other. If you know a few words in their language, use them.

Use illustrations. Often it is possible to sketch what you are trying to say through symbols. For example, you can explain the counseling process by sketching and explaining the baseball analogy.

Wait longer for answers. It will be natural for the individual from a foreign culture to take more time in answering a question or asking one. Give them the time to struggle without restating the question.

Explain our jargon and idioms. When you see a blank stare in their eyes, smile and do your best to explain through gestures what your odd expression really means.

Be generous in giving compliments. Use hand gestures, your smile of approval and the laughter of your eyes to indicate progress—no matter how slowly the process is moving.

If a translator is avilable, call for help! Communicating through an interpreter can and should be a lively and enjoyable treat for any counselor. If circumstances permit, do not pass up this opportunity.



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