You’re a communication expert. Why is it often so challenging to communicate productively with colleagues and parents?

Because you’re human, and effective communication, like any other acquired skill, must be explicitly learned.

As speech-language pathologists we:

  • have been formally trained in the areas of speech and language
  • our education and clinical experiences yield competence for us to perform our daily duties of assessment and therapy

However, competence is only part of our professional credibility. Whether you work in a school setting, hospital, private entity, or home-health facility, SLPs must be able to work well within a team. We need to have people skills at work.  Outside of formal meetings, we must acknowledge that our daily interactions include communication and engagement with others.

What strategies best foster positive and productive colleague interactions? And, what strategies are best for resolving adversarial situations? Join us in our series: The Kids Are the Easy Part. What?! I Have to Work with Adults!

People skills at work


Today we will be chatting about our Credibility as speech-language pathologists. Over ten years ago, as a new graduate, I thought my credibility as an SLP was summed up by the two years of graduate school I spent in the Midwest. I braved the Wisconsin winters, took notes, poured buckets of sweat during my practicums (in the best of ways), studied for exams and passed the dreaded Praxis. I earned the two letters, M. and S., after my name, and I was ready to tackle my profession. At my first solo Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting, I realized my degree could not help me. My principal could not be found (again), my teacher did not agree that her student did not qualify for services and my parent, an attorney, brought her law books to refute my recommendations. This time, I was sweating for a completely different reason.  I was surely getting school in the People-Skills-at-Work-101.

Behaviors for Building Trust

People skills at work

I recently attended a training at Region 13 Education Service Center. It was titled “Behaviors for Building Trust,” and it addressed the core of what SLPs need to do. Nicole discussed Stephen Covey’s 4 Cores of Credibility. Credibility, I learned, is actually divided into Character and Competence. I am going to assume that we fulfill our roles competently: 1) we are all capable of conducting assessment and executing therapy and 2) we demonstrate results through our effective therapy. So, let’s talk about our Character. Character is composed of Integrity and Intent. We shall now delve deeper.

Stick with me. I promise it’s worthwhile.



Integrity has to do with your ability to walk your talk. It is being brave and adhering to the dialogue you speak. If you say it, you follow through with your intentions. Now, like most of you, I got into this profession to do good for this world. I want to help others, and I would like to think that I there is nothing that would keep me from helping and supporting a client or student. I have also learned that making promises does not work.

If a parent wants her child to receive speech services, I am honest about our school’s eligibility criteria. I talk about Response to Interventions (RTI), progress monitoring and the process for a potential evaluation. I also talk about school-based services versus services in a private clinic. I talk about evidenced-based practices that would be yield results (which may or may not adhere to service delivery models set up in the schools). I am transparent, and this is key.


Intent has to do with your inner-motive. It is the ability to not only value your own self-care needs but putting time and heart into what’s important for those we support and serve. People know when you are acting in their best interest. More importantly, people know when hidden agendas are at play.

More People skills at work is better (right?)

As a school-based SLP, I find myself in meetings with parents and teachers asking for more time in speech therapy. More is better, right? Maybe. In a previous life, I supported a group of SLPs, and I would hear the challenges of our workload. “I don’t have the time to do this?!” So, on the one hand, we have little time to give more to our students and clients. On the other hand, we have an ethical responsibility to provide the best, most efficacious services. So, what is our intent when asked about increasing a client’s schedule of service? Remember, not having time is not our students’ or clients’ problem. (For support with this question, check out our post on Service Delivery Models).

Character-Food for SLP-Thoughts

  1. Do you talk straight? Are people 100% clear on your motives following an interaction?
  2. Are you transparent? Are you authentic when you talk to your parents, teachers and interdisciplinary team members?
  3. Do you own your mistakes? Do you apologize and then immediately fix the wrong? Keep in mind that pride and ego often jeopardize this important skill.
  4. Do you demonstrate respect for every person and every role?
  5. Do you show loyalty by giving credit where it is due? Of course, we know that speaking poorly about others does not ever result in ideal situations. But do you freely give credit and accolades to those around you—whether they are present or not.

Thanks for joining us in this first series installment.

As you have these slower summer months to think about how you interact with people, take note of how small changes with those around you yield big results. I always say that, as SLPs, we all do the same thing. We conduct assessments, conduct therapy and take data. What makes someone a great SLP is how she conducts herself when things are hard.

We are here to support your small steps, big steps, setbacks, gritty-moments, sweaty-needs and successes.

Check out our post on Intensive Service Delivery Models and watch a free recording of Phuong Palafox’s presentation.

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