ACS Distance Education UK
As soon as a skill becomes second nature it is not uncommon for the skill to be taken for granted and depending on how we may be feeling at any particular time, for the skill to be demonstrated ineffectively (when we may be too tired, or have other concerns on our mind). In order to prevent this from happening, it will serve you well to keep in mind the following:
· Don’t fake understanding (if you don’t understand, keep trying your reflecting until you do)
· Don’t tell the speaker you know how they feel (saying “I know how you feel”, when someone has had a lousy day, merely puts the focus back on you, and really you can never understand exactly how another feels BUT you can relate to it, which is entirely different)
· Try not to respond the same way every time
· Remember to identify the feelings and to reflect them (don’t automatically revert back to remaining in the intellect, especially when you are speaking with someone who shies away from their feelings).
· Vary the vocal quality. Be warm and emphasise feeling words that the client expresses (try not to remain always calmly spoken, or excited)
· Refrain from giving advice
· Remain focused and relevant
Asking open questions can allow someone to provide a statement that conveys more meaning than a closed question which usually only elicits a single word response (e.g. ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘good’). For example, you may ask your partner or friend ‘what did you enjoy about school/work today’, rather than ‘did you enjoy school/work today’. You can see how one allows for a more comprehensive reply, whereas the other allows for a single word reply.
Now that we have covered the basic skills involved with listening attentively, let’s take a look at some of the skills necessary to covey our message.
When someone needs to let another know how they feel about a particular issue, it has been found that by using messages that convey the feeling, thoughts and the behaviour, the success rate of the message being received is greatly improved. Here’s how the formula goes:
· A description of the situation
· A description of how you feel
· A reason
· A request
To begin with, think clearly about what you are unhappy about and how it makes you feel. For instance, ‘when my partner comes home and walks through the house with muddy boots’, I feel angry’.
Try not to add anything else to the feeling such as “because he is too lazy to take off his boots at the front door”. This conveys a judgement statement and infers motives (or possibly attitudes, characteristics etc.) that puts the other person down and on the defensive straight away. Be as objective and as brief as possible.
Now, describe how the behaviour affects you ‘when you walk through the house with muddy boots, the floor becomes dirty, and the mud gets tracked throughout the rest of the house’. Then, think about what it is you would like the person to do instead? ‘When you come home, I would like you to leave your boots at the door’. Be sure to be clear about the effect that the other person’s behaviour is having on you.
Quite often, the person who is performing the unacceptable behaviour is unaware of the effect their behaviour is having. If they choose to ignore the message, then allowing them to feel the negative consequences of their own actions, can often motivate them to change their ways.