Attending Skills Essay

Bolton, in his book People Skills (1979), describes attending as giving all of your physical attention to another person. The process of attending, whether you realize it or not, has a considerable impact on the quality of communication that goes on between two people. For example, by attending you are saying to the other person “I am intersted in what you have to say”, however, a lack of good attending communicates that “I really don’t care about what you have to say.

” The body can be used as a tool to facilitate good communication.

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This is done through positioning the parts of the body so that they invite and hold an interpersonal relation. A relaxed alertness expressed by body posture seems best suited for fostering good communication. Bolton offers these suggestions to establish a posture of involvment: * Lean toward the speaker. This will communicate energy and attentiveness. * Face the other squarly (i. e. , your right sholuder to the speakers left). This communicates your involvment.

It is especially important for you to position yourself so that you are at eye level with the speaker if you are seen as a authority figure.

This will circumnavigate feelings of threat and can greatly aid in forming an interpersonal relationship. * Maintaining an open posture is also important for fostering interpersonal relatedness. A closed posture (i. e. , crossed arms and or legs) often communicates coldness and defensiveness. * You also need to be aware of your proximity to the speaker. We all have a concept of “personal space. ” When those boundaries are crossed it puts the other on the defensive and makes them feel uncomfortable. However, to much distance communicates aloofness and disconectedness.

Body motion, it’s a funny thing! Have you ever paid attention to what your hands were doing during the course of a conversation? Some of us simply shove them in our pockets or let them hang aimlessly by our sides. Then there are others, like me, who tend to fling them around as if to place some kind of emphasis on each word! There is such a thing as too little and too much. Body motion is good but it can be over done if you are not careful. The purpose of gesturing when you are listening is to encourage the speaker to continue speaking.

This can most easily be done with a periodic head nod. A good listener moves his or her body in response to the speaker. Effective eye contact says that you are visually attuned to what the speaker is saying. Good eye contact involves focusing on the speakers face and occasionally shifting the focus to other parts of the body. The key is that the other is aware that they have your attention because your eyes are “on them”. Good eye contact should seem natural to the other person. What ever you do, don’t “stare them down. ” This makes you seem anxious and sometimes critical of them.

The environment where the communication takes place is also an important factor in whether an interpersonal relationship can be formed. It is not always posible to move the conversation into a private room or office, but every attempt should be made to reduce the number of distractions that are present. In his book, The Skilled Helper (1998), Gerad Egan offers what he has labled the Micro Skills of Attending. The are very close to the infomation I have presented above from Bolton’s People Skills. He has developed the following acronym to help counseling students remeber these vital skills in communication.

The listener has a specific responsibility in the course of communication. That is to stay out of the speakers way and to try and follow where he or she is leading. The goal of listening is not responding but understanding what is trying to be communicated. A door opener is a noncoercive inivitation to talk. Sometimes door openers are not necessay to “get the ball rolling”, but may be needed later in the conversation if the speaker does not seem to want to continue. Door openers don’t have to be verbal cues, a good listener can also use his or her body to send the signal “I am interested, you have my attention, please tell me more. The “four elements” of a door opener, as discussed, by Bolton are; (1) A discription of the other person’s body language (i. e. , you don’t look like you are feeling well today. ) (2) An invitation to talk (3) Silence (to give the other person time to decide if they want to talk and what they are going to say. ) (4) Attending (this inclueds all of the attending skills that are discused on the attending skills page. ) What on earth are “minimal encourages? ” In the attempt to follow it is important not to become a nonparticipant in the conversation.

Minimal encourages refers to the amount the listener speakes and the amount of direction the listener gives to the conversation, which should be very little. Sometimes encouragement is needed but the speaker needs to remain in control of the conversation. The same is true for questioning as is for encouraging. The problem is not questioning itself but the fact that most people do not do it well. Most people ask closed questions that only require specific and short answers such as “yes” and “no. ” The trick is to ask open questions that are designed to spur the conversation on when it gets stuck.

This means that questioning will be relatively infrequent. Finally, attentive silence is one of the most important elements in following the listener. We live in a culture in which silence is not comfortable. We often inturpert it as a cue that we need to jump in and say something. In fact, silence is an opportunity for the speaker to reflect on what he or she has said and to gather their thoughts before their next statment. What we say is not as important as giving the speaker the time he or she needs to clearly communicate their point.

An important aspect of listening is to help the listner clarify his or her communication so that they can get their meaning across. To practice reflective listening is to serve as a mirror for the person speaking. One way that the speaker can do this is through paraphrasing. A paraphrase is a conscise response to the speaker that restates the essence of the communication in the listener’s own words. The paraphrase deals with facts or ideas and not the emotions.

In this respect it focuses the content of the speakers message. Another aspect of reflecting is the mirroring back of the speaker’s emotions as they make their statments. It is important to tune into the speaker’s emotions. If we, as listeners, miss the feeling content we have missed a major part of the speaker’s reaction and experience. Reflecting feelings also give the speaker an opportunity to evaluate how he or she is responding to a problem situation.

Not only should the listener reflect feeling, he or she also needs to reflect meaning. Content + feeling = meaning. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, if you get the feelings wrong or the content wrong then you can’t understand the speaker. Reflecting meaning alows you to be sure you are “getting” what the speaker is saying. Reflecting feeling and content are the baby steps to reflecting meaning. Meaning expression can use the basic empathic formula; you feel _______ because _________ , or some variation on this formla.

After a while the formula will disaper and a natural empathic responding style will develop. Finally, there is the concept of sumative reflections. This reflective response is designed to recap the major themes of the conversation and comes after an extended period of the conversation. During the course of the conversation bits of useless information can acrue. The sumation can serve to help the speaker to sort through the litter and to construct a more complete and compact conceptualization of the issue being discussed.

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