Strategies to Improve Social Communication After TBI

Strategies to Improve Social Communication After TBI

While communicating can be difficult at times for everyone, it can be even more difficult to overcome for survivors of brain injuries. Social communication skills allow us to interact with others in order to form healthy relationships and improve overall health and happiness.

Sadly, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can negatively affect one’s ability to effectively use social skills. The task of communicating with others can often become exhausting and overwhelming. The good news is that it is possible to have healthy communication and relearn certain social skills, even after a brain injury.

Examples of Social Skills and Issues After TBI

To break it down a bit more, social communication is considered the ability to send and receive verbal and nonverbal communication. This helps individuals build and maintain their relationships, solve problems and make decisions, and be successful in professional/work settings. Some types of effective social communication may include:

  • Being able to listen to someone and remember what they said
  • Taking turns during a conversation with someone without interrupting
  • Sharing information that you have concisely and without rambling
  • Saying things in an organized manner that makes sense
  • Using tone and emotions that reflect the nature of the conversation
  • Being aware of how what you are saying is affecting others

The brain is one of the body’s most vital organs and controls everything we say, do, think, and remember. Oftentimes, injuries to this organ can cause disruptions in someone’s ability to send, receive, and interrupt communication. Some examples of social communication issues that may arise after a TBI include:

  • Having difficulty understanding tone of voice, such as jokes or sarcasm
  • Feeling out of place or uncomfortable around people
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Losing focus in the middle of conversations
  • Misunderstanding words, facial expressions, or actions
  • Talking too much or too little
  • Expressing extreme or inappropriate emotional responses
  • Not knowing how to start or maintain a conversation
  • Having trouble expressing thoughts or feelings
  • Rambling and repeating oneself
  • Processing information very slowly

The Impacts of Impaired Communication

For those who suffer from social deficits after TBI, social isolation is a significant issue. The person may be unable to accurately communicate how they are feeling or feel uncomfortable in social settings, resulting in them spending more time alone. This can lead to mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and negatively impact the person’s self-esteem.

Additionally, relationships can be more difficult to maintain and become strained. For instance, a spouse may be unable to communicate to their partner what they are feeling or the help that they need. This can lead to frustration from both parties and result in increased marital and family stress. Building and maintaining relationships is also an important part of many workplaces, so impaired communication can also lead to lost wages.

Relearning Important Communication Skills

Ultimately, your doctor will be able to help you determine the best course of action when it comes to rebuilding your communication skills. Often, this involves regular visits with a speech and language therapist for many months or even years. Such treatments may have goals of helping TBI survivors relearn:

  • How to speak clearly
  • How to find the words they want or need
  • Conversational rules
  • Nonverbal cues

Additionally, as a TBI survivor, there are strategies you can implement at home to develop your social communication skills. You can ask a family member or a close friend to help you with these steps:

1. Evaluate.

The first step you can take to improve your communication is to evaluate what your skills are and what is challenging for you. It may help to write down your day-to-day interactions and reflect on what you are good at and what you can improve on. You can also discuss with a loved one the skills they believe make a good communicator and ask for them to give you feedback on what you could improve on.

2. Set Goals.

Once you decide what areas of communication you want to improve on, write them down so you are motivated to achieve them. For instance, you could set a goal to ask more questions and interrupt less during conversations. Each time you have an interaction with someone, write down what you said after the fact and note how you did.

3. Practice and Get Feedback.

You can start by practicing your skills on family members, friends, and those you most trust. Once you build confidence and feel more comfortable with your communication skills, you can challenge yourself by visiting places in the community where you can interact with other people, such as the grocery store, bank, gym, or coffee shop. Remember, it’s okay to take small steps and celebrate when you hit your goals.

Helping Brain Injury Survivors Recover

If you experienced social communication deficits after a TBI, you are not alone. At Kornfeld Law, our head attorney, Rob Kornfeld, sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1985 when he was involved in a serious auto accident.

Since then, Rob has been determined to advocate for those seriously injured due to no fault of their own. Get someone on your side who has personally experienced the same obstacles as you and will fight hard to ensure you receive the reimbursement you need to heal.

Contact our Seattle brain injury attorneys at (425) 657-5255 today. We are ready to review your case for free and help you navigate the legal system from start to finish.


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