How to talk to a schizophrenic?

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Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia have difficulties related to concentration and understanding of very complex sentences.

This is not connected with the general level of intelligence, but with specific difficulties in the assimilation of information. So how to talk? Using simple and unambiguous sentences. To allow the schizophrenic persons to understand precisely what we are saying and what we are asking them to do. What should be avoided? Avoid sentences in which, beside the primary theme, we want to say about many other things. If the sentence is very complex, involving many topics, the ill person may be confused about what it really means. We should try to speak as to the adult, but as simply and clearly as possible.

Remember!

The aim of any conversation is to be understood.

Conversation serves to convey information.

Conversation serves to build the sense of intimacy and understanding.

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Stock photo. Posed by model.

Most common problems with communication

The main problem in a conversation with another person, especially with a schizophrenic person, may an ineffective way of talking which makes the understanding of the conversation by the ill person either impeded or impossible. The most common difficulties in conversation include:

  • not maintaining the topic of conversation – they quickly change the topic several times during the same conversation (talking about a few topics at a time);
  • the use of wrong words - the use of words in the meaning which we know only or words which are unknown to the family member; 
  • speaking in a complicated manner, making statements difficult to understand;
  • speaking in too prolonged way. building too long statements, thus losing the general sense;
  • building discontinuous statements, fragmented (instead of full, complete sentences from the beginning to the end, the same words or sentence fragments appear);
  • expressing two opposing views in one sentence;
  • expressing very general opinions, not quite on the subject which the conversation applies to, but rather general, scientific, philosophical views detached from the immediate topic of conversation;
  • too quick expression of one's opinion before the conversation partner understands a given issue or event;
  • talking about something despite of the lack of assurance what the conversation saw or heard with regards to the issue.

Remember!

Think, see, wonder whether any of the above described difficulties may apply to you. If so, it means that you can improve the way you communicate with a treated family member and with other people in your environment.

It is worth knowing that...

It is important for any treated person to know if somebody understands them.

Try first to understand what the other person says, and only then start to speak.

Problem Proper message Improper message
denials and self-contradictory statements

„I would like you to clean your room”
„I would like you to meet with friends”
„You should take the medicines”

„Clean your room or not, let it be as it is”
„You should meet with friends but you are not able to meet with them, do not meet with friends”
„You should take your medicines or better, do not take them, so take the medicines, but not, do not take them"
divided, fragmented statements „I would like that you clean your room”
„I would like that you meet with friends”
„You should take the medicines”
„Your room… so dirty, at your room… cleaning”
„People should be met… You should… one needs contacts… with people the contacts are necessary”
„Regular taking is a must… well, the drugs… take drugs… swallow”
statements which are unclear in the conversation context „I would like you to clean your room”
„I would like you to meet with friends”
„You should take the medicines”
„I would like you to clean your room”
„I would like you to meet with friends”
„You should take the medicines”
unclear statements for the used words „I would like you to clean your room”
„I would like you to meet with friends”
„You should take the medicines”
„I would like you to carry out cleaning of your room” 
„Consider to identify friends” 
„Apply medical means”
off-topic statements The treated person says: „I have cleaned my room” 
The close relative answers: „I am glad you have done it”
The treated person says: „I have met with friends”
The close relative asks: „Was that meeting good for you?” 
The treated person says: „I have already taken my drugs”
The close relative answers: „Good, you remember about it”
The treated person says: „I have cleaned my room”
The close relative answers: „Let us talk about your home work”
The treated person says: „I have met with friends”
The close person answers: „I have brought flowers from the garden”
The treated person says: „I have already taken my drugs”
The close person answers: „There is a program in television about animals”

The arguments why the communication way, presented on the right side, is not effective:

  • because the other person cannot understand what you want to tell him or her – and if the person does not understand, he or she does not know what is being said, how to react, what to do and what not to do,
  • because mutual understanding is important for emotional bond – if two persons do not understand each other, this may negatively affect their mutual relationship.

The rules of effective conversation with a person treated for schizophrenia

The rules below specify not to say, thus they do not apply to conversation contents. They concentrate how to say, thus dealing with the way of communication. They indicate how to speak to be understood, especially by a person with diagnosed schizophrenia to obtain communication with them. The rules are universal in character - concern the method of talking with all the people we come into contact with - and in all situations.
The rules for YES The rules for NO
Use simple, understandable sentences. Do not use confusing, very complex sentences whose meaning is difficult to understand.
Name the topic of conversation and try to follow it. Do not change the topic of the conversation chaotically.
Try to express one thought in one statement, what you want to say just now. Do not speak in such manner that one sentence contradicts the one expressed earlier.
Try to make your statement as consistent as possible. If you can, do not use too many interludes, inclusions, additional words or thoughts unrelated to the topic of the conversation.
Speak rather as shortly as possible to convey what you want. Your statement should not be too long. If your statement is too long, the listener remembers only the first few words.
Try first to collect information, listen, observe, and speak afterwards. Do not draw too hasty conclusions and generalizations.
Listen to what the member of your family wants to say. Do not say everything that comes to your mind, without taking into account what the person you are talking to is saying.

Remember!

Think, see, wonder whether any of the above described difficulties may apply to you. If so, it means that you can improve the way you communicate with a treated family member and with other people in your environment.

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