Also important is that you don’t switch of when you think you have heard it all before, even if you have heard it all before, it is still obviously very important to the client and it is possibly the first time they have expressed these thoughts in words, so it is new to them and you never know there may be a twist to this story and it would be very embarrassing if you where planning what to have for dinner and weren’t ready with the relevant follow on question and hadn’t heard the last few minutes. We must however be aware that we shouldn’t make assumptions based on our knowledge or experiences.
I have noticed in role play in class that it is all very well that someone may be listening but without the right feedback it’s pretty much a waste of time. The reaction of, oh yes I’m the same as you, my husbands like that to and my children do that as well doesn’t allow you to move on, it just makes you feel a bit better that you are not the only one, that others can relate, it doesn’t help you to come up with a solution or to put the experiences behind you or deal with the problem in a different way.
To listen affectively we need to slow down, we speak a lot slower than we think, so we fill the time with thinking, if doing this it would be easy to accidentally switch off or be distracted by our own non relevant thoughts. Looking at experiences of role play I would imagine it can become difficult to keep up with what the client is saying putting it into context and analyzing all their signals before they change the subject or angle.
Making notes whilst trying to listen can be difficult as you cannot give the client full attention, The ideal situation would be to record the session for future reference but this can make some people uncomfortable and they would not be able to express themselves as well and may be uncomfortable with the thought of who may see the notes or hear the recording.
Active listening requires you to respect a clients personal space if the counsellor is to far away or to close this can affect the relationship between counsellor and client the ideal position is with their heads about five feet apart if the counsellor is to far away it will be difficult for them to hear and the client will feel that the counsellor is emotionally distant (Aldridge and Rigby 2001).
Listening involves a lot more than just hearing words it involves observing body language, facial expression, posture, showing interest, sensing feelings, encouraging the client to trust you, empowering the client, hearing the clients needs and enabling them to solve their problems. Nonverbal communications covers facial expression, body language, gestures, posture and the image we project all can tell a lot about a person and their emotional state, it can confirm and emphasise the strength of what a person is saying or it can contradict what they are saying.
To enable a client to be able to confide in a comfortable manner we need to be aware of our own non verbal communication, we need to be aware of whether we are frowning using our hands are to close or leaning to far forward (Aldridge). Over a fifty minute session I would imagine the hardest thing to hide could be boredom. If you where to have glassy eyes, the client would eventually notice.
The experience I have from class roll play is quite strong one, a very uncomfortable experience I find hard to describe, the person that was playing the part of counsellor (not in an exercise where negative body language was part of the exercise) didn’t want to be there, especially didn’t want to talk to me, this was all conveyed through body language she was leaning away had a look of disgust on her face and made very little eye contact and after that experience I hoped I wouldn’t be working with her again.
The first image of a councillor the way they dress there age hair makeup etc can say a lot to a client and depending on the clothing and image can make them uncomfortable a counsellor in a nice smart suit could make a client feel inferior whereas a man seeing a females councillor who is covered in make up with a low top and short skirt would probably distract him and make him feel uncomfortable. The same goes for the way a counsellor will view a client.
A man in jeans and t shirt and covered in tattoos would be seen as intimidating and you could possibly assume that they will be aggressive. It can be difficult to set judgements aside and wait until you have heard the facts and get to know the person for who they are and not how they look, obviously there is no time for the client to get to know the counsellor they need to be put at ease straight the way. Body language of the counsellor is important your posture and the way you hold yourself can have an impact on the way you are perceived.
When reading body language we need to be careful, the client covering there mouth or avoiding eye contact may not necessarily be lying it could be that they are anxious and shy or down to cultural influences. The person with folded arms may not be on the defensive but just cold. We have to take into consideration the environment and circumstances before making a decision To much eye contact can be intimidating and seem threatening but a certain amount of eye contact is necessary to let your client know that you are listening.
The amount of eye contact needed can depend on how anxious the client is and how developed the relationship is (Aldridge 2001). Eye contact and the way we look can say a lot about a person, looking away when talking about something important can be perceived that you are uncomfortable with what you are saying and may be lying The eyes can be the most accurate human communication signal with the if looks could kill look and a gleam in his eye (Peace) Touching a client would need to be considered and great care would need to be taken depending on the individual and their culture.
If appropriate in a well developed relationship a counsellor could show concern with a quick pat on the hand or arm but care must be taken not to invade the clients space or give the wrong signals as the attention could be perceived as more than just concern from a counsellor to their client. Nonverbal communication is one of the main methods that councillors use to convey their interest and emotional availability whilst listening to clients, often known as attending behaviour.
A relaxed open body posture and sitting square to clients or to a slight angle is important so that the client can easily see the counsellor and vice versa crossed arms, and possibly cross-legged can be perceived as a barrier and leaning backwards can be seen as lack of interest or boredom, whereas leaning to far forward can be seen as an invasion of their personal space (Nelson-Jones) To summarise listening is combined with nonverbal communication as you have to create the right environment and through the setting in which you are counselling in, and the way you portray yourself through image and non verbal communication.
Listening is probably one of the most important skills in counselling without the skills involved in listening you wouldn’t enable the client to express themselves to the best of their ability to enable them to move on. Non verbal communication is also important without the correct non verbal communication the client would feel uncomfortable and not be able to fully express themselves and move on. I think my role play experiences have shown me how important Listening and non verbal communication is. References Aldridge, S. Rigby,S. (2001) Counselling skills in context, London, Hodder & Stoughton