Consumer enablement guide

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Effective communication is a fundamental part of supporting enablement and delivering person-centred care.

How you communicate with someone can significantly affect their experience, as well as influence how they manage their health when they leave your care.1 2

Good communication is more than speaking and listening. It is about paying close attention to the other person, so you can understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This will help you work out what to say and do next.

How to communicate effectively

  • Speak using plain language that people will understand, without any medical or technical jargon. If you must use jargon, explain what it means.
  • Remember that different words can have different meanings, depending on the person’s background, culture, gender and age.
  • Consider the tone, pitch and pace of your voice, as it can influence how people react to what you are saying.
  • Repeat important information, to help people understand and remember it.
  • Make sure your facial expressions are consistent with what is being said.
  • Eye contact is important, but try not to stare or divert your eyes. In some cultures, a lot of eye contact is offensive.
  • Consider your posture when talking. Lean forward slightly and make eye contact to show you are listening.
  • Pay attention to the person’s words, tone of voice and body language (such as posture, gestures and facial expressions) to understand what they mean.
  • Try to avoid providing too much or too little personal space. People should feel supported, not isolated or intimidated.
  • Avoid physical barriers like desks, and try to sit at the same level as the person you are talking to.


  1. Weingart SN, Zhu J, Chiappetta L, et al. Hospitalized patients' participation and its impact on quality of care and patient safety. International Journal for Quality in Health Care. 2011;23(3):269-77.
  2. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Engaging patients in communication at transitions of care. Prepared by a consortium from Deakin and Griffith Universities. Sydney: ACSQHC; 2015 [updated 2015 Feb; cited 2018 Jan 15].


Communication resources