Active Listening

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    • 00:02


    • 00:10

      MICK COOPER: So in this tutorial,we're going to look at active listening, whichis a really important part of counseling work.We're going to look at what it is to really actively listento somebody.We're going to look at why it's important.And we're also going to look at the importance of beingable to tailor it to the particular personthat you're working with.So active listening is much more than notsaying anything and thinking, I mustn't say anything,I mustn't say anything, I mustn't say anything.

    • 00:34

      MICK COOPER [continued]: It's really an opportunity for youto really find your way into the client's worldand to really try and understand what's going on for them.So when you're-- it's not just being quiet.You're listening and trying to make sense,trying to get that feel for them,or what it's like for them in their world, what they'refeeling, what they're thinking.And if you're really kind of engaging and empathizingwith somebody, well, you're probablynot going to want to say that much.

    • 00:58

      MICK COOPER [continued]: Because you are going to want to give that person the spaceto talk.And maybe there'll be some questions.Maybe there'll be some reflections.Do you understand this?Is this right?Is it a bit like this?But really, what you want to do isyou want to allow that person to talk,and that you're being engaged there in that active way,because you understand that that'swhat that process is about.It's about helping a person describe their experience.

    • 01:19

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And then you can reflect that and helpthem go deeper and deeper into it.Something to really bear in mind is that particularly whenpeople talk about their lives and they talk about deeperemotions, people can really slow down.And even though when you're listening,it might seem that not much is happening,but if somebody's connecting with their feelingsand things that are going on inside them,then they might need a lot more space to talk about things.

    • 01:46

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And that's why it's important not to interrupt, to allowsomebody to go at their own pace,and to take the time they need to really go into thingsat the level that they want to.If you look at the research, what the research saysis that for people who are having counseling,just having that space to talk, and feelingthat somebody is really listening to them,is so important to be able to open upand to be able to understand more about how they experiencethe world.

    • 02:14

      MICK COOPER [continued]: Now how much should you be talking?Well, people give different estimates.But maybe if you're talking more than maybe 5%,10% of the time within a session,then it could be that you're talking too muchand taking up too much of the space.Really, in those sessions, you want time for the clientto be able to talk and to talk and to talk,and it's an opportunity for you to help maybe structurethat a bit, maybe help keep that going with something that'sgoing to be useful for the person who's talking.

    • 02:41

      MICK COOPER [continued]: But really, the majority of the time in counselingshould be around the client and the client's opportunityto talk and explore things.Hey, Rob.

    • 02:54

      ROB: Yeah.

    • 02:55

      MICK COOPER: So we've got about 40, 45 minutes together.

    • 02:58

      ROB: Right.

    • 02:58

      MICK COOPER: And it's just a chance for youto kind of talk about what's brought you here,and what you might want to talk about in counseling.

    • 03:05

      ROB: OK.Sure, yeah.Good.Um, well, I guess the biggest thing is-- well,it's kind of like my relationship, I guess,with my girlfriend.It's kind of-- it's a bit difficult, I think,at the moment.Kind of things are kind of, um-- yeah, it's just hard.

    • 03:26

      ROB [continued]: It's, um-- I don't know.I think it's partly sort of the time of year,but I think it's also probably something a bit more than that,really.

    • 03:33

      MICK COOPER: Uh-huh.

    • 03:34

      ROB: Yeah.I feel like, um-- uh, like everything's kindof-- on a day-to-day thing, it's all fine.Like, we're kind of getting on, and liked we're kind of, um,you know.You know, we hang out together, and that sort of stuff is fine.But then when it sort of comes to sortof like being intimate which each other,I'm just not interested, really.

    • 03:57

      MICK COOPER: Ah.

    • 03:58

      ROB: Yeah.Yeah.And-- and so then I'll, like, find myselfkind of avoiding night times, and sortof doing what I call, like, staying up late,or kind of finding excuses to not kind of be around.And then she gets upset about it,and I kind of feel really guilty, and then yeah,that's kind of hard.

    • 04:19

      MICK COOPER: So you can see, in the example with Rob,that really, at the beginning of the work, I'm really just thereand I'm giving him the space to talk, and I'm listening,and I'm just trying to get a sense, OK, so what goes on?So he's saying that he kind of doesn't want to spend timebeing intimate with his partner.But what happens in the rest of his day?How does he get to that point?How does he lead up to that?Now, that's not something I can know without giving Robthe space that needs to talk about thatand to describe what happens for him.

    • 04:45

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And as he starts to describe it, I'mkind of picking up a bit of a sense.I'm picking up some of the feelings.I'm picking up some of the discomfort, maybesome of the resentment beginning to come throughas the session progresses.And as I'm feeling those things, I'mjust allowing myself to feel my way into themand get a sense of them, and then I'mputting them back to Rob as a wayof helping him to reflect more on what's going on for him.

    • 05:07

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And then he can correct me, or hecan say how maybe things are different.So a really important skill is knowingwhen it's good to listen and knowingwhen to break that silence.And a lot of that goes back to the thingabout trying to really attune with somebodyand trying to get a sense of how somebody's experiencingtheir world, and being able to put that back to them.

    • 05:29

      MICK COOPER [continued]: If you're immersed in somebody's world,if you're understanding things as they're understandingtheir experiences, then you'll have a natural senseof when somebody's developing thatand when somebody's exploring that.And that's when you really want to be listening to somebody.And if somebody's talking about something different,or when you're not feeling that clear about what somebody'ssaying and what somebody's experiencing,then that might be a time to come in and put that backto them.

    • 05:51

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So with all the things in counseling,rather than think about something like active listeningas a particular technique, it's more about-- thinkabout why you're doing it overall.Because you're trying to enter somebody's world.You're trying to reflect that world backto them, help them explore that world.A lot of that is about listening to the person.And some of that will also be about checking that outas a way of helping them to go deeper into it.I mean, sometimes, if you're listening a lot,it might feel like you have to-- you want to say something.

    • 06:17

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And the question there is, am I saying thisbecause it's about helping the client?Or am I saying this because it's something about me?Now sometimes, if you don't say anything for a long time,you might feel like, oh, I really want to say something.But if the client's in full flow,and if the client's talking about things whichare really important to them and havea lot of emotional content, then really,maybe you don't need to say anything.You don't need to interrupt.You don't need to comment if a client's doing that allhimself.

    • 06:37

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So it may be, for instance, that youdo a whole one-hour session, and actually, the client'stalked all the way through.If you haven't said anything, then that'sfine, if they're talking about thingsand if they're talking about their experiences,in a way that feels like they're doing some useful work there.It might also be that if a client's talkingand they stop, and then there's a silence,you feel a bit awkward with the silence,and you feel that, you know, that youneed to break the silence in some way.

    • 07:01

      MICK COOPER [continued]: Sometimes people can feel awkward in the silence.And if you're not saying anything at all,then it can feel-- somebody mightbe wondering what's going on for you.Somebody might really be wondering if you're there.So active listening shouldn't be about kindof shutting down and refusing to say something.And sometimes you might want to say something,as a way of helping somebody feelmore comfortable and encouraging them to talk.

    • 07:26

      MICK COOPER [continued]: But you need to ask yourself, is this about me?Am I saying something because I thinkthe person needs it at this point?Or is it because I feel uncomfortable with the silence?It may be that somebody's actuallytaking a pause just because they'reconnecting with what they're feeling.And sometimes talking about that and going on to another subjectactually is the last thing somebody needs,because it just takes them on to something different, whenactually, they were really connectingwith what's going on for themselves.

    • 07:50

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So you need to give yourself that timeto just sense, you know, why is it that I want to talk here?And why is it that I want to say something?Learning to be comfortable with silence.It's really important, when you're listening to somebody,to be sensitive to the particular personthat you're with.So for some clients, it's really usefulto have lots and lots of space, and theycan talk in a very engaged and in-depth way for a long time.

    • 08:15

      MICK COOPER [continued]: Some people will use that silenceand they're just go off in different directions,and it may be really useful for you just to bring them back.And that's something you can talk about.And they might say, well, actually,I'd like you to interrupt me a bit moreand bring me back to what is, maybemy goals, what it is I want to focus on.And other people you talk to are justreally uncomfortable with silences.And actually, if there's long silences,it makes them feel very awkward.

    • 08:36

      MICK COOPER [continued]: They're not sure what to talk about.It's not constructive for them.It actually makes them feel worse about themselves.If somebody's like that, and if you sense somebody's like that,it's something that you can talk about.You can talk some with somebody about howthe silences are for them.And there's no value in imposing a silence on a clientif that's not something that they're going to find helpful.Some clients can find it very distressingnot to have somebody kind of responding to themand may not experience it as positive.

    • 09:02

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And they may need you to maybe ask more questions,or to say things, as a way for themto feel that they are really engaging with somebody,and that somebody's really listening to them.But it's such an individual thing.So the important bit is to talk to the peoplethat you're working with, and to find out for themwhat those silences are like, and what'smost helpful for them.

    • 09:23

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So sometimes if you're listening to somebody,you may notice that you're zoning out.And if you do, it's not something to beat yourselfup about, but it is something to be aware of,in thinking about what's going on.It may be, for instance, that somebody's kindof talking about things that are becoming more abstract, moreconceptual, and that they're not reallytalking about what they're feeling,or the kind of deeper stuff that's going on for them.

    • 09:45

      MICK COOPER [continued]: And if you notice that you're zoning out,that might be an opportunity to bring them back and say,you know, I've noticed that you'vemoved on to kind of more abstract things,or this is how you think about it.But why don't you tell me about how you feel about it?So bringing the person back to the stuffthat feels really core to them.

    • 10:07

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So what we've looked at in this tutorialis the importance of active listening.And it's a way of giving the client the spaceto really talk about what's going on themselveswithout getting too interrupted.And it's a chance for you to findyour way of really understanding how the client experiencesthings in a kind of engaged way.And also, what's really important in active listeningis about trying to understand whatthe individual client wants.

    • 10:29

      MICK COOPER [continued]: So some people need a lot of space to talk.Some people need more interruption.Some people need lots of questions.And try to tailor it to the individual personthat you're working with.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Active Listening

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Prof. Mick Cooper explains the importance of active listening and how to actively listen. He futher explores how to determine when it is appropriate to respond verbally to a client.

SAGE Video In Practice
Active Listening

Prof. Mick Cooper explains the importance of active listening and how to actively listen. He futher explores how to determine when it is appropriate to respond verbally to a client.

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