17 June 2014

Tips for Active Listening

I used to help on a telephone line, ringing people who, for one reason or another, were isolated and welcomed someone ringing regularly for a chat.  

We did not need to be anonymous and so could talk a little about home, family and interests.  This made it a more enjoyable experience for both parties.

Here are a few pointers I saw recently and thought would help someone in a similar situation:

Face to face

1   Do:
  • Face person squarely
  • Have open posture
  • Lean towards the person
  • Eye contact
  • Be relaxed

2   Keep in touch with own feelings and non-verbal behaviour.

3   Be genuine, be aware of own attitudes and values and how they influence others.

4   Show the following skills:

  • Non-coercive invitation to talk.
  • Brief indicators that you are with them, eg nods and verbal reinforcers.
  • Not too many questions
  • If you do pose a question - make them open: who, what, where, why, how.
5   Reflecting
  • Paraphrase
  • Reflecting feelings - the speakers, not your own
  • talk at the same speed
  • mirror their words
  • lower your voice tone in order to make a point
  • Summarise

On the Telephone

Clarify the problem
  • treat the caller as responsible
  • be aware of limitations: time, privacy, mine.
  • Be warm, genuine, non-judgemental.
  • Remember confidentiality
Excessive talking:
  • Assess value of the talking.
  • Ask lots of direct questions.
  • Cut them off if they stray from the point
  • Tell them they are talking too much
  • Deal with the anxiety or fear behind the 'overtalking'.
If little or no talking:
  • Talk less
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Talk about things of interest to them.
  • Reward the things he/she says.
  • Deal with his/her anxiety.
  • Be comfortable with silence.
  • Give person permission to withhold.
  • Give person space to vent his/her anger.
  • Clarify what you will not do.
  • Acknowledge their demand.
  • Refer to appropriate person or group.
Non-verbal communication
  • Facial expressions
  • Gaze
  • Gestures, bodily movements
  • Body posture
  • Bodily contact
  • Spatial behaviour
  • Physical proximity
  • Clothes and appearance
  • Non-verbal aspects of speech
  • Eye contact
  • Head movements
  • Timing and synchronisation

  • Communicates attitudes and emotions
  • Self-preservation
  • Ritual, eg greetings, separation
  • Supports verbal communication

It can:
  • confirm or repeat
  • deny or confuse
  • strengthen or emphasise
  • control or regulate

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