For this exercise I had to Interact with a friend and find out about a recent emotional experience. One that did not necessarily need counseling but one which has aroused different feelings. During this interaction I was to try and make all my responses reflections and ask no questions. The idea of this was a little daunting as through-out ones life we are taught or learn conversations with a dictated question and answer scenario.
We believe that we must ask question to show that we are infarct listening, paying attention and are interested. Initially I had to start the conversation by asking a question as otherwise the interaction would not of started so one this question was out of the way it left my friend to talk about the Issue which had caused some emotional upset. I found It hard to begin with to not encourage her to continue when she paused as I really wanted to fill the gap with a question.
This was not necessarily needed but It was that I was worried that she did not think I was Involved within the Interaction and I was wondering what she was thinking and feeling. Was she uncomfortable speaking? Did she feel I was paying attention? However remembering my role was to reflect I began to try and clarify and restate what she was saying rather than ask a direct question. This was really helpful and I found that she would explain and back up things which she had previously talked about.
This greatly increased my understanding of the issue, but I felt it also helped to clarify her thoughts and maybe how she viewed the situation now. I also felt that by restating what she had said helped to reassure her that I was willing to attend to her point of view and needs. I tried to respond to what I believed was personal to re rather than the Impersonal, distant or abstract feelings which she displayed. Restating and clarifying was definitely working as this I feel did help me not to ask questions but also from telling my friend what I believed she was feeling, believed or wanted.
Through-out the interaction I showed a lot of empathy and acceptance within my body language. I kept eye contact, smiled and nodded. I also began to sub-consciously mirror what my friend was doing which shows that I was listening and was involved in what she was describing. I certainly did not demonstrate any linings of boredom, non-acceptance or indeed fake concern. Effective listening is hard and a skill which I think is learned through a great deal of practice.
I did find on occasions that I missed opportunities to restate or maybe try and reflect on the more personal aspect of a particular comment. This was because I was thinking too much and was not sure If I was going to reflect or ask a question, by which time my friend had moved on. Because the goal of the process or the exercise in counseling Is for client, rather than the listener (me), to take responsibility for the problem, being afflictive or reflective listening means responding to, rather than leading or asking questions.
This is a difficult task for a beginner to do. I have learnt that a often testing his or her understanding of the other by restating or clarifying what the other has Just said, This usually encourages the other to build on the thoughts and feelings he or she has Just expressed and to explore further. I feel I did manage to do this with my friend, however if she was to discuss the same issue with a trained experienced counselor my take on the story would probably resemble a skeleton when compared to the collectors notes.
I have taken on board what I have learnt from this exercise and hope to continue practicing this through daily interactions which I have and certainly if a friend or relative come to me with any issue or problems. Being a reflective listener is definitely in some instances a much better way of learning about someone else. As Carl Rogers noted that a person who receives response at the emotional level has “the satisfaction of being deeply understood” and can go on to express more feelings, eventually getting “directly to the emotional roots” of their problem. Which is typically what a counselor wants to try and achieve.