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[a training package from the school of social studies,university of wales college, newport][are you in zennor?][introduction]
MIKE SIMMONS: Hello.My name is Mike Simmons, and I workas a lecturer in counselling at the University of Wales CollegeNewport.The purpose of this program, though,is not to turn you into a counselor,and that's probably not what you want it to do.What it will do, however, is show you some of the skillsthat counselors use and demonstrate
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: the way in which some of those skillscan be used by people in other helping professions--by anybody who wants to use them, in fact.It's important to be clear about this.We're not talking about counseling here.We're talking about using some of the skillsthat counselors use.You might think I'm being a bit picky,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: but there is a very real difference.The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy--otherwise known as BACP-- has describedcounseling as "the principled of use of relationshipsto develop self knowledge, emotional acceptanceand growth, and personal resources."
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: And it is suggested that the overall aim of counselingis to live more fully and satisfyingly.But BACP also acknowledges that not everyone whouses counseling skills is in fact a counselor,and identifies those skills as beingused when there is intentional use
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: of specific interpersonal skills which reflectthe values of counseling, and when the practitioner'sprimary role-- e.g., nurse, tutor, line manager,social worker, personnel officer,helper-- is enhanced without being changed,and when the client perceives a practitioneras acting within their primary professional or caring
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: role, which is not that of being a counselor.And that's what we're interested in here.As far as this program is concerned,what we'll be looking at is the skills thatcan be used as part of some other relationship-- nurse,teacher, social worker, whatever.If you learn some of the skills we'll be talking about,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: your colleagues won't suddenly think you've changed jobs,but you might notice that you're easier to talk to,and they might find themselves feeling more able to tell youwhat they need to tell you.And this is why you might want to learn counseling skills--because they can help you to help them to tell you what they
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: need to tell you so that you can do your job more effectively.It's maybe worth pointing out that most of these skillsare not unique to counselors, and you've probablybeen using them for all of your life.What we'll be looking at is the wayin which those skills that you've already gotcan be enhanced and used most effectively
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: in your relationship with the people youcome into contact with.We'll also be asking you to look at yourselfand the way in which you present yourself to other people,and the way in which you form opinions about the peopleyou come into contact with.The whole package is broken up into sections,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: so you don't need to watch everything from the beginningto the end, unless you want to.Sounds like quite a lot to cover.Maybe it's time we made a start.But before we do, there are just a coupleof points I need to make.Everything you'll be seeing is a role play of some sort.It was all recorded with the full awarenessof the people concerned that what they were doing
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: was eventually going to end up on this DVD,and I'm very grateful to them for their patienceand for their help.You might want to look for your remote controlbefore we make a start.Because this is a DVD, you've got the abilityto jump from section to section if you want to.But even if you want to watch the whole thing
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: through from beginning to end, you'llstill need the remote because I'llbe asking you to press pause from time to time.I don't know where yours is, but in our householdyou can generally find the remote underneaththe sofa somewhere.It might be worth looking there before we begin.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: [how others see us]As soon as we start to think about the ways in which otherssee us, it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that we cannotnot communicate.We communicate by the way we dress, by our accent,and by the things that we choose to surround ourselves with.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Everything we do will have an impact of some sort,however small that impact might be.If I dress like this, for example,I'm likely to give a different messageto the one I'll give when I'm dressed like this.The message I'm giving right now might wellbe, here's an old hippie dressed up in his interview suit.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: But if you generally wear a suit to work and the peopleyou interact with don't, then you're inevitablygoing to be communicating something to them.And that something is almost certainlygoing to be about the distribution of power.The corollary of this is equally true, of course.If you don't wear a suit and then everybody
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: you come into contact with does, then that will alsocommunicate something.You cannot not communicate.So you might like to think about what you're communicatingto people older than you or younger, or better off or lesswell off.You might not always be able to do anything
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: about what you're communicating, but if the peopleyou come into contact with are goingto be aware of that communication,then it seems sensible that you should be aware of it, too.If you're not comfortable with the message you're giving,then you might want to think about a few changes.And those changes can go well beyond just thinking
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: about the clothes you wear.Let's see how that works in practice.No two offices are the same, of course.And this one seems to be suspiciously tidy.But it's also pretty typical of many.The first thing you might notice is that door.While an open door may well indicate an invitation
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: to people when they're on the outside, once inside the roomit may well inhibit them from saying what they want to say.Different agencies and institutionswill have their own policies on this,but there's no doubt that if the door is closed,people are more likely to feel able to talk
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: about what's on their mind.The closed door could also imply that whathappens inside the room won't be disturbed in any way,so it's important to make the reality of the situationexplicit.If you've put a hold on phone calls, for example,it's worth saying so.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Alternatively, if you're going to haveto answer the phone if it rings, it's worth saying that, too.Again, is someone likely to knock on the door?Make it clear.The closed door also suggests somethingabout confidentiality, which will again make people feelsafer about talking to you.That's fine, as long as it is safe for them to talk.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: But if they're assuming a confidentiality that you're notable to offer, then they're likely to feel angry and upsetat sometime in the future.Tell the people you work with the extentof the confidentiality that surroundsthe conversations you have.That way, they're not simply goingto feel safe-- they're going to be safe, too.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: There are other things to considerbesides that open door.You might notice that there's a window directlybehind the desk, and that will also have implications.If we're talking about power, then there'sno doubt that not being able to see someone who can see youand who might be in a position of authority
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: does little to instill confidence in anybody.So what can you do about it?The easiest thing in this situation, of course,is simply to move to chairs aroundwhen someone visits your office.That way, the status imposed by the desk is removed.And in our example, nobody is disadvantaged by having
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: the light through a window in their eyes.Of course, many of us prefer to sit at a deskwhere we can face the door.But if you're prepared to forego thisand are willing to make some real changes,then it's very easy to make a real impacton the way in which people are able to relate to you.Simply by moving to the window, we
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: can create a good deal more space in the room.And simply by turning our chair to the visitor's chair,there's no longer the issue of powerbeing denoted by someone being seen sittingon the other side of the desk.In this example, in fact, it's possible to move the chairsright away from the desk, which can only be an advantage.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: But even the size of the chairs you sit inwill have a significance.The person sitting in the higher chairis likely to be seen as being more important than the personsitting in a lower one.Likewise, someone sitting in a chair with armsis likely to be seen as being more important than someone
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: sitting in one without.Not everyone meets the people they interactwith in an office, of course, and much of what has been saidhas inevitably been a generalization.For some people watching this program,the idea of an office to meet anyone inwould seem like a real luxury.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: There are many nurses, teachers, and youth workerswho could hope for little more than a quiet cornerin a crowded room.Then again, for some people there may be very goodreasons for keeping a barrier between themselvesand the people they interact with.And for some agencies, it's a real triumphto be able to get any chairs at all, let alone worry about
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: whether they've got arms or not.So a number of points to bear in mind.You cannot not communicate.You'll do that through the clothesyou wear, the language you use, and the way in which youpresent yourself.Your furniture-- the furniture in your office--
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: will also make a communication about you.If people feel more equal to the person they're talking to,they will be more happy to talk.If people feel they're not going to be overheard,they're generally going to feel safer.If people know that they're not goingto be disturbed while they're talking to you,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: they're also going to feel safer.It's wise not to make assumptionsabout confidentiality, and not to let the peopleyou talk to do so, either.It's better to make it explicit.So the people you meet with may wellsee themselves as disadvantaged in a relationship to you
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: already.If there are things about you or about the environment in whichthey find you that emphasizes this,then it's unlikely to do much to enhance the relationshipbetween you both.You might find it worth thinking about your own environmentand any changes that you might like to make to that.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: [how we see others]Though it might make us uncomfortable to admit it,most of us make snap judgments about the people that we meet.We all know the kind of people we like,and we know the kind of people we don't like.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: And generally, we recognize whichcamp a stranger falls into in a very short time.We do this because it helps us to make sense of our world.Life can be confusing enough, and if there's anythingthat we can do to make it simpler, then we do it.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: This means looking for patterns in the unknown.And if we recognize a pattern, then the unknown becomes known.We might call this process somethinglike "learning from experience."But what actually happens is we bring our past learningfrom previous experiences into the present
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and impose that learning onto our present experiences.We might also call this process "giving a dog a bad name."Have a look at this picture.Most of us are familiar with thisand recognize that what we're looking at
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: is not just a wine glass or a pair of faces,but is in fact a well-known piece of optical trickery.But what about this one?This is a much less familiar shape,and we struggle for some time to make sense of it--to recognize some kind of pattern.Eventually, we notice that it appears
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: to spell out the word "the."At that point, we then cease to lookfor meaning because we believe we know what it is.We're able to relax from the tension of not knowing.But that shape could equally well be spelling out "T-H-8."
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Now, I don't know what TH8 means,and I guess that you don't either.But there it is.Just like the wine glass and faces picture,"TH8" is equally as present as "THE."But we don't usually find "TH8" because we've already decided
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: that what it says is "THE."As soon as we've found the one word,we stop looking for the other one.The argument is that we do much the same in every situationthat we find ourselves, and with every person we meet.Of course, we try to meet every new event
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: as if it was really new.But all too often, we recognize familiar patternsand use those patterns as a basis for our judgment.What I'm talking about, of course, is stereotyping.Try this as an experiment.What's the first word you come up with when I say,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: "Politicians are--" "Football supporters are--""Redheads are--" "Estate agents are--"Now, I want to be clear about this.I'm in no way suggesting that you actually
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: consciously believe what you've just said, though of course youmight, too.But what I am suggesting is it because youare able to come up with those responses so quickly,then there is a likelihood that there'sa predisposition for those views to influence you in some way.It will be easier, perhaps, to say the politicians are
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: "slippery"-- the word that I might come up with--than to say that some are scrupulously honest,some are crooked, and some are doing a very difficult jobin trying circumstances.Easier, because it means there's a certainty there,and human beings don't seem to be verygood at holding ambivalences.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: We'd like something to be one thing or the other.Now, I'm going to show you a sequence of pictures of people.You probably won't know them, because they're simplystudents here who've allowed me to take their photographfor this exercise.What I'd like you to do is to first find a piece of paper,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and then using your remote step through the slide show.As you see each picture, write down its number,and then against the number, the feelingthat that picture evoked in you.Don't censor what you write.Simply write down the feeling that first comes to your mind.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: OK, let's give that a try.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Great, I wonder how you got on.What's happened is that you've managedto identify feelings about people that you don't actuallyknow.Those feelings can't really have told youmuch about the people on the screen,because you don't know them.But what it has done is told you somethingabout how you respond when confronted
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: with different people.I'd like you to jump back now to the beginning of the exerciseand look at the pictures again.But this time, try to work out where your responses came from.Why did you think that that person looked untrustworthy,say, or that that one would make a good friend?
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: See if you can make sense of wherethose responses came from.Jump back now.[Press "Previous Chapter" on your remote]I wonder whether you were able to make any sense of this,whether you were able to track down where some
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: of those feelings came from.The point that this exercise makes, of course,is that if simple pictures on the television screenare able to evoke those feelings,then it's likely that those same feelings will be evokedwhen we meet real people.What I'm suggesting is that we prejudge them.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: This process begins early on in childhood,when we form our first concepts of home and family.It's influenced and modified throughout lifeby the situations and experiences we encounter.It's a constant and ongoing process.It would be great to say that we're not judgmental,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: that we take each person as a unique individualand that we never let our own issues get in the way of seeingsomeone as they really are.It'd be great, but also, I suspect, untrue.It's untrue for me, it's untrue for anyoneI've talked to about this, and it's probably untrue for you,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: too.If we can acknowledge this part of ourselvesrather than deny it, then we've gota much better chance of meeting people as they really are.If I know that a clock is 30 minutes fast,then I knew what the time this.Similarly, if I know that my initial response to someone
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: with very short cropped hair is likely to be one of anxiety,then I've also got a better chanceof treating that person as a real personrather than as if they were some skinhead who'd attacked mein the street 30 years ago.You can monitor this process in yourselfat any time-- on the train, on the bus, in a pub.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Anywhere you see strangers, you cancheck what you think you know about people without actuallyknowing them.Sometimes you'll be right, of course,but sometimes you won't.And that's what's so important here.We can make snap judgments about someoneand never even know whether we've got it right or wrong.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: How long did it take you to make your mind about me,for example?[listening]
SPEAKER 1: "The role of listenershas never been fully appreciated.However, it is well known that most people don't listen.They use the time when someone elseis speaking to think of what they're going to say next.True listeners have always been revered among all cultures,and prized for their rarity value.
SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Bards and poets are 10 a cow, but a good listeneris hard to find.At least, hard to find twice."[terry pratchett - "pyramids"]
MIKE SIMMONS: All of us feel pretty sure that weknow how to listen.After all, we'd say, we've been doing it for all our lives.The reality, however, is rather different to that.All too often, we spend rather more of our timein conversation putting our own compactionon what's being said than actually listening
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: to what we're being told.We interrupt.We change the subject.We finish the other person's sentence for them.We try to top their story with one of our own.We jump in with inappropriate questions.We become distracted and lose concentration.And sometimes, as Terry Pratchett suggests,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: we simply wait for the other personto stop talking so that we can start.Quite a lot of the time, this doesn't really matter.A conversation is a social event that we can both enjoy.But if we want to find out what's really concerningthe person we're talking to, thenwe have to put those behaviors to one side
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and to pay attention to what they're actually saying.This largely means ignoring our own concernsand recognizing that this particular conversation is notgoing to be equally balanced-- that this isn't goingto be a time when we can talk about our concernsor what we want to talk about, but it's
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: a time when we're simply going to listen.We listen to the words that are being spoken,and we listen to the way in which they're being spoken,the tone of voice, the body language.This all sounds like quite a task,but we've already discussed some of the issues involved herewhen we were looking at the ways in which people see us--
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: how we present ourselves, the way we choose to dress,the chairs we invite our visitors to sit in,the priority we've put on this meeting over incoming phonecalls or chance interlopers all givean indication of our willingness to listen.We can go rather further than this, however, simply
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: by maintaining an awareness of what helps and hinderscommunication.When you've got five minutes to spare,ask someone not to listen to you while you talkabout something that matters.This is a pretty strange request, of course,and you'll need to choose the person you
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: ask rather carefully.But there's a lot that you can learn from this exercise.While it's going on, there are two thingsyou might want to be particularlyaware of-- what they do, and how you feel about what they do.What they do is clearly going to be somethingyou'll want to avoid when you're trying to listen to someone.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: What you feel is likely to be very disinclined to carryon speaking.The easiest way to show someone that we're notlistening to them is simply not to look at them--to look at the clock, to look at our notes,to look out of the window.The interesting thing is that when someone is speaking to us,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: they're very often not maintaining eye contact.They tend to look up and down as they recall the informationthey're telling us about.But when they turn back to us to seehow we're taking what they're telling usand then they find that we're not looking at them,they're almost certainly going to feeldisappointed and devalued.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Remember, if there's any kind of issue of power involved here,then they're unlikely to feel confident enough to say, hey,pay attention to me.They're just going to feel that you're not interested,and maybe give up on the idea of explainingtheir situation to you.If you able to maintain good eye contact--
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and that doesn't mean staring at them with a glazed expression--then they're going to feel much more encouraged to go onwith their story.I'm talking about listening here,but it's important to note that we communicatea great deal more information to each otherthan are simply carried in the words we use.Our body language, our tone of voice, the speed with which we
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: speak, the inflections we use all communicate somethingabout how we're feeling.If someone says to you--
SPEAKER 2: Oh, staying late to do it?Yes.Yeah, no problem at all.I can stay late.
MIKE SIMMONS: You might not be altogether convinced by whatthey told you.To listen effectively, you have to sharpen up your observationskills a little.Here's an exercise that you'll need the remote control for.I'll show you a video clip of someone making a statement,and then I want you to press pause
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and to experiment with repeating what they sayas exactly as you possibly can.Not just word for word, but with the same tone of voice, accent,inflection, facial expression, gestures, the lot.In a sense, you'll be trying to imitate them.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: It's important to point out that neither counselingskills no counseling has got anythingto do with imitating someone like a parrot.This is simply an exercise to put you in touchwith the complexity of the communication madewhen someone speaks.So watch the clip, press pause, and try
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: to copy what you've seen.When you're happy with what you've done,press play and I'll show you the clip againso that you can see how accurate you were with what you did.
SUE: Wow, I've been waiting for this meetingto start for 10 minutes.I can't believe that no one's turned up.
MIKE SIMMONS: OK, let's hear it again.
SUE: Wow, I've been waiting for this meetingto start for 10 minutes.I can't believe that no one's turned up.
MIKE SIMMONS: I wonder how well you did.The more you pay attention to what someone is sayingand the way in which they're saying it,the more you'll become aware of what they're actually saying.However, it's not just listening that mattersbut showing that you're listening.Good listeners actually tell the peoplethat are talking to them that they're listening.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: They do this by using something called minimal encouragers--the nod of the head, the murmured "hmm" and so on.Of course, all I've probably doneis give you a name here to something you'vebeen doing all your life.But minimal encouragers are important.You just try to talking when someone's not using them.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: They give a very clear message to the person doingthe talking, which goes something like,I'm content to be simply listening to you, and happyfor you to carry on talking.Watch these two people talking.You can see that one of them is really listening,and they're showing that they're doing thatby maintaining good eye contact and by giving
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: plenty of minimum encouragers.It's interesting that we don't needto hear what's actually being said to know that communicationis taking place.One final point-- we also show that we'relistening by giving the person doing the talkingthe space in which to talk.We don't jump in when there's a pause in their flow.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: We wait to see if they want to continue.If they don't, then we make sure that our response relatesto what they've said.Try to spend a little time over the next few days observing howpeople listen and how they don't.You can do this at work.You can do it at home.Most social relationships are comparatively equal in nature,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and they should mean that both take turns at talkingwhile the other listens.What it can all too often mean, however,is that they both talk while neither listens.See what happens if you try to changeyour part in that interaction.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: [questions]We all use questions in everyday conversation,and they can be very useful in helping us to show an interestand to get the information we need.The problem is that the wrong kind of questioncan actually stop us from getting that information.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Have a look at this.
MAN ON PHONE: Hello.
STRANDED MOTORIST: Hello, it's me.My car's broken down.Can you come and pick me up?
MAN ON PHONE: Are you in [INAUDIBLE]?
STRANDED MOTORIST: No.
MAN ON PHONE: Oh.[INAUDIBLE]?
STRANDED MOTORIST: No.
MAN ON PHONE: Oh.Aberdeen?
STRANDED MOTORIST: No.
MAN ON PHONE: Abersoch?
STRANDED MOTORIST: No.
MIKE SIMMONS: Our stranded motoristis being asked a series of what are called closed questions,and they don't actually allow herto say what she needs to say.Until she gets the opportunity to tell the person she'stalking to where she actually is,she's only going to be able to make one response.
STRANDED MOTORIST: No.
MAN ON PHONE: Oh.
MIKE SIMMONS: Closed questions are questionsthat are we generally only answered with yes or no,and they can be very useful when the person asking a questionalready has most of the information they needand are just seeking clarification of some sort.The problem is that there may always
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: be more information that we're not being given,simply because we haven't asked for it.
MECHANIC: Do the headlights come on when I do this?
STRANDED MOTORIST: Yeah.
MECHANIC: I've fixed it now.
MIKE SIMMONS: An intuitive kind of questionis the open question, which is onethat allows the person who answers it the widestpossible range of responses.Had the mechanic asked something like,what happens when I do this?He would have got a great deal more useful information.See if you can see the difference
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: in impact between each of these pairs of questions.The first one in each pair is a closed question,the second an open one.
FRANK: Did you feel upset when that happened?
AMELIA: How did you feel when that happened?
FRANK: Do you get on well with the rest of the team?
AMELIA: How do you get on with the rest of the team?
FRANK: Are you thinking of leaving becauseof what happened last week?
AMELIA: So what's making you think about leaving?
MIKE SIMMONS: In each case, you cansee that the open question-- as its name suggests--opens things up and allows the person answering the questionto respond as fully as they wish to.The closed question, however, simply helpsthe questioner to confirm somethingthey already suspected.This is an important point to consider.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: It's not that closed questions are bandand that open ones are good.It's more that they perform different functions.What kind of question we ask them-- closed or open--should depend on what function we want a particular questionto perform.So if we think we've misheard something or misunderstood
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: something that someone has said, we might ask a closed question.
FRANK: Sorry, did you just say that you'd been working herefor six years?
MIKE SIMMONS: But when we want someoneto explain things from their own perspective,we might ask an open question.
AMELIA: So what do you see as happeningafter the merger takes place?
MIKE SIMMONS: If we think we might have been misunderstoodby the person we're talking to, then we might ask a closed one.
FRANK: I know this is all pretty complicated.Would you like me to go through some of this again?
MIKE SIMMONS: And if we need to clarifysomething that's already been said, we might ask an open one.
AMELIA: You say that your teammates are taking it outon you.Can you say exactly what happens?
MIKE SIMMONS: But if we need to confirmthat we've understood everything that we've been told,we might ask a closed one.
FRANK: Let's see if I've got this right now.So when you started, you were part timeand you were looking after two teams?But more lately, you've been full timeand have been in charge of five teams,including the project at Luton.Have I got that right?
MIKE SIMMONS: Of course, some questionsbreak all the rules, anyway.The classic counselor's, "Would youlike to tell me some more about that?"is a closed question, all right, and could evoke a yes/noresponse, but it's much more likely to allowthe person you're talking to to open up and to tell youwhat's on their mind.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: The important thing to remember isthat if you ask a closed question,you're much less likely to get any new information.You'll just have that which you already knew confirmed.If that's what you want, that's fine.But if you want new information, ask an open one.Something else to bear in mind is
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: that when you're going to ask a question,it's important to make sure you ask just the one.Multiple questions, like this--
AMELIA: So what's the problem about your job?Is it an issue about not being promoted?Is it just that you're simply fed upafter the renegotiations?Or is it that you want to be moved into a new job?
MIKE SIMMONS: Just leaves the personyou're talking to feeling confused.We often find ourselves asking questionslike this when we think we haven't been clear enoughin our first question.We ask one, then we feel we need to clarify it and ask another.And sometimes, we ask another one on top of that, too.The moral, of course, is to think first and then ask
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: the question.Finally, questions that begin with "why"need to be treated with some caution.They tend to take people into their heads,looking for reasons for their actionsin a way which may not always be helpful.They can also put people onto the defensive,making them feel a bit like a small child.
WOMAN: Aw, why did you do that?
MIKE SIMMONS: Yes.So to recap, closed questions are most often answeredwith either yes or no, and are bestused if we think we haven't been understood,or that we haven't understood things ourselves,or simply to confirm something that's already been said.Open questions, on the other hand,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: allow the person we're talking to to give us more informationand to tell us things from their own perspective.Multiple questions are always best avoided,since they only confuse the person we're talking to.It's also wisest to steer clear of why questions unless wereally think the person who we're talking to
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: is likely to have the answer.And finally, whatever kind of questions we do ask,we need to be sure that the information we getis going to be worth having.Otherwise, don't ask the question.So much for questions, then.I hope that's all clear.Is it?[closed question]
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: [empathic responses]
WOMAN: I've just had a really terrible day today.I had this really boring, boring meeting this morning.And then on the way home, my car broke down.By the time I got it sorted out--I got this bloke along to fix it,and he was absolutely hopeless.It's just been dreadful, absolutely dreadful.
MAN: What kind of a car is it?
MIKE SIMMONS: The reason why we so oftenask questions is, of course, that we're not quite sure whatelse we should do.By asking a question, we do at least show interest,even if it does risk distracting the person we'retalking to from what they were trying to tell us.There's an alternative, though, and it's
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: what counselors call an empathic response.Empathy means really trying to understandwhat it feels like from the other person's perspective.Not how you would feel if the same thing happened,but how they feel.An empathic response is something
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: you say to a person that demonstrates that empathy.So for example, if I was to say, I'vegot to go back to the hospital next weekfor the results of the tests.I'm feeling really worried about it.An empathic response might be something like--
LESLEY: So you're feeling really anxious about gettingthese test results.
MIKE SIMMONS: Or something like--
FRANK: You're really worried.
MIKE SIMMONS: It's easy to see how either of those responseswould have encouraged me to talk more about my concerns.You'll also have noticed that theywere quite different to each other, the second one simplyconsisting of three words.Both of them focused on my concern,however-- worrying about those tests.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: There's no attempt to parse an opinion, to cheer me up,to tell me what I should think or do, to make a judgment,or to deny how I feel about things.This is really important.The way in which we respond to the other personso often fails to acknowledge the realityof their experience.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: If you can hold back from your own frame of referencelong enough to let the people you work with recognizethat you can see things from theirs,you'll be doing a very real service.And you'll end up with a much clearer picture of howthings seem to be to them.Here's another example.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: If I was to say something like, "I'vebeen doing this job for seven years now,and it feels like I'm going nowhere,"an empathic response might be--
AMELIA: So you feel that after several years,you've reached a bit of a full stopas far as your job's concerned.
MIKE SIMMONS: Or it could be--
LESLEY: I get a sense that you feelthis is a bit of a dead-end job for you?
MIKE SIMMONS: Or again, it might just be--
FRANK: You've had enough.
MIKE SIMMONS: Again, you'll see that each of the responsessimply attempts to knowledge how it feels for me.An empathic response isn't about looking on the bright side.It's not about cheering someone up.It's not about distracting someonefrom what they're saying.It's about acknowledging the reality
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: of what they've actually said.This could always be a good deal more difficult for the personwho is trying to be empathic, because they have to toleratethe other person's discomfort.But for the person on the receiving end,it can be an enormous relief.Somebody understands what they're saying,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: and lets them say it.They feel heard.You don't need to be aiming for perfection when you're tryingto be empathic, by the way.You simply need to say what you think you're being told.No two people will come up with exactlythe same empathic response, either.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Now's the time for you to have a try.So you might like to look for that remote control.I asked Sue to come into the studioand make a number of scripted statements, which we filmed.I then asked three counselors to come into the studioand make some empathic responses to the statementsas soon as they'd seen them.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: You'll get to see Sue's statement first, and then eachof the counselors' responses.You might like to press pause after Sue's statementand try to formulate one of your own first.So let's try one.
SUE: Do you know, I really feel as if no one'staken any notice of me anymore.We have these departmental meetings,and it's as if I haven't spoken.No one hears me.No one takes any notice of me at all.[press pause for your response press play to hear the others]
AMELIA: So you feel you've almostbecome sort of invisible at work and in meetings,and that you're also feeling quite cross about that.
LESLEY: You sound really upset, that almost asif you're invisible in the team and nobody really values you.
FRANK: Sounds like you feel kind of invisible at times.
MIKE SIMMONS: OK, how was that?Was your response anything like any of the others?Don't worry if it wasn't, but do tryto see the point that each of the counselorswas making-- a strong focus on how things seemedfrom Sue's point of view.Now let's try another one.
SUE: I've just got a dreadful feeling I'm not up to this job.I was so pleased when I got the promotion six months ago,but as time goes by I'm just feeling worse and worse.I'm just waiting for someone to find out I'm a failure.[press pause for your response press play to hear the others]
AMELIA: So you felt chuffed to bitswhen you got this job six months ago,but since then you've started to feelmore and more under confident, and almostfeeling as if you've been a bit kind of left to get on with it.
LESLEY: Although you were initiallydelighted to have got the post, as time's gone on you'vefound your own self confidence going down further and further,and now you have a fancy that somebody'sgoing to find out that you're reallynot up to this job at all.
FRANK: So you were so excited when you got this,but now there's a real doubt about whether you can actuallydo it, and sometimes it seems like you don't understand someof things that are sent to you.
MIKE SIMMONS: And how was that one?One of the things you'll notice about the responsesthat the people in the studio are makingis that they aren't particularly wordy.They just seem to be looking for the core concern,and are responding to that.There's something about babies and bathwater here.The temptation is to reflect everything so
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: that you don't miss anything.But it's as if you're giving backthe baby and the bath water.Let's do a couple more and see if youcan identify the baby, the core concern,and make that the heart of your empathic response.
SUE: I'm just so angry at the moment.We've got three rooms in this agency for seeing clients,and we've also got a new manager.She wants to take two of those over for herselfand other managers.It just feels like she's empire-building.I've got half a mind to resign.[press pause for your response press play to hear the others]
AMELIA: So you feel almost sort of full up really with angerat the moment, and particularly with this new manager.And you feel a bit suspicious of her agendacoming into the agency, and you feel on the point of going.
LESLEY: It's got to such a point to this job,and you feel so angry and so fed upthat you're thinking of giving up,and the tin lid sounds like your manager decidingto take one of these rooms instead of itbeing a counseling room.
FRANK: It seems like you feel that this is allvery unfair at the moment, and you'rereally angry-- to the point whereyou could even just walk out.
MIKE SIMMONS: And here's just one more to try.
SUE: I've just heard the news I've been made redundant,and I feel devastated.I can't believe it.I'm so upset, because I've put so muchinto my job for a long time.Plus, what's worse is I've been having good feedback,so it's come as a complete shock.I don't know where to turn at the moment.I just feel completely lost.
SUE [continued]: [press pause for your responses press play to hear the others]
AMELIA: So you've just received the newsthat you've been made redundant, and you're prettyshocked about it at the moment.
LESLEY: You feel actually lost and bewilderednow that you've been told that you're going to lose your job.It's a job that you love, and everything's been going right.So how can this happen to you?
FRANK: So then this is a job that you really loved,and now suddenly news of being maderedundant's kind of naturally madeyou feel pretty like the wind's been knocked out of your sail.You don't know what to do next.
MIKE SIMMONS: OK, that's enough for now.Counselors often make a distinctionbetween reflections, which are empathic responses whichgenerally acknowledge the feelings that someoneis expressing, and paraphrases, which focus more on the story.But there's one other kind of responsethat's also worth mentioning, and that's the summary.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: If someone has a lot to say to you,it's very easy to get lost in an enormous amount of information.The summary is just a way of summing up all the key pointsas you've heard them to make sure that you've understoodwhat you've been told and that the person you're talking toknows that they've been understood.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Reflection, paraphrase, and summaryare simply names given to different kindsof empathic responses.What's more important than knowing the namesis simply trying to be empathic-- to put yourselfin someone else's shoes.This is something you can practice at any time.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: If you watch any television at all-- particularly the soaps--you'll find ample opportunity to practiceyour empathic responses.Just wait for one of the charactersto make a particularly heartfelt statement--and it might be just as the credits are beginningto roll-- and see what you would say to themas an empathic response.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: The big advantage, of course, of doing thisis that you can claim that you're studying while you'reactually watching EastEnders.So to summarize-- if we're able to see what the world feelslike to someone we're talking to,and if we're able to show them that we'vegot a sense of that world, and on top of that
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: if we're able to focus on what's really important to them,then they'll feel heard.And if they feel heard, then they'relikely to feel able to say more about what's going on for them,and you'll get an even greater senseof the things that matter to the people you're relating to.
DINNER GUEST: I've really had a terrible day today.I had this really boring, boring meeting this morningand I can't tell you how tedious it was.Then on the way home, my bloody car broke down.And by the time I got somebody to fix it,he came and he was so useless.I can't tell you how useless he was.
DINNER GUEST [continued]: So I've just had it up to here today.
DINNER GUEST 2: Sounds like you've had a bad day.
DINNER GUEST: Mmm.[examples from practice]So far, we've been looking at the skills in isolation.But now's the time to see how they work in practice.I asked Amelia and Sue to do two role plays.
DINNER GUEST [continued]: Both show a worker coming to a manager with a concern.But in one, the manager uses counseling skills,while in the other she most certainly doesn't.The outcome of each section is very different,and I've selected a number of excerpts from eachto show you what happened.Have a look at this first-- it's from the bad practice session--
DINNER GUEST [continued]: and see what you make of it.[bad practice]
AMELIA: So hi, Sue.I heard you had a problem, and as your manageryou've asked me to come down and help you sort it out.So perhaps you can tell me what's bothering you.
SUE: Well, I recently have started here, as you know.And when I say recently, it was about three months ago.
SUE: I haven't worked for awhile.I've been off having children and being at homewith my family, so this has been quite a--
AMELIA: I know what that's like.
SUE: --quite a major event, really.
AMELIA: How long were you off before you came back, then?
SUE: About four years, and I really felt like--
MIKE SIMMONS: What did you think?Less than a minute to watch, but there was a lot going on.Particularly, what did you make of that,"I know what that's like."?It seemed to wrong-foot Sue a little,and certainly didn't come from her frame of reference.I might be being a little over-critical here,but I would also have expected a managerto know a little more about someone's working history
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: than Amelia seems to demonstrate here.Compare the start of that session with the startto the good practice session.It seems very different.
AMELIA: OK, Sue.You telephoned me and you said youwanted to talk about something.So here I am.We've got about 10 minutes at the moment,but we can come back to this if it's not long enough, OK?I'm just going to check that my phone is off.OK, yes it is.That's good.
AMELIA [continued]: So please, begin when you're ready.
SUE: Right, thanks.I mean, this problem might sound quite small to you,but I've actually been out of work for a long time.I took time out of the work environment to have my childrenand be at home, and I've come backto work for this organization on a part-time basis.And I was very excited about doing this job
SUE [continued]: and joining the workforce again, and it'sbeen nothing but a disappointment, really.And part of me wants to take responsibility for that myself,because I know that I'm job sharing with a person I'mfinding it difficult to job share with.
MIKE SIMMONS: Amelia makes a very clear statementabout the time that's available, ensuresthat they won't be disturbed by any phone calls,and then simply lets Sue get on with her story.All we hear from Amelia is the odd, murmured, minimalencourager.
SUE: Sort of a personal dynamic.
MIKE SIMMONS: This session continueswith Amelia making a good, empathic summary of whatshe's been told so far.
AMELIA: Right, OK.So let's just see if we can clarify a little bit.You haven't worked for a number of years,and you came back to work with us three months ago.And as a way in, almost, you joined as a job shareto get back into work, and you'refeeling a bit disappointed at the moment.
AMELIA [continued]: I wasn't sure whether the disappointment wasaround the job share as opposed to the actual job,or perhaps that's not clear yet.But one of the issues that it seems to be aroundis actually your relationship with the personthat you're job sharing with, and you'reexploring how you contribute to that,but also how it's happening between you anyway.
AMELIA: Is that sort of--
SUE: Yes, that's exactly what I feel.And I think that you're absolutelyright that the core of it is the relationship.
MIKE SIMMONS: Sue's response makes it quite clearthat she feels understood, and seemsto understand the position a little more clearlyas a result.
SUE: I want to be able to assert myself with her.She's been in the workforce for around--
MIKE SIMMONS: In the bad practice session,Sue tells much the same story, but Amelia's response this timeis simply to attempt to come up with a solution.
AMELIA: OK.So if you feel-- if one of you were to say redeployed,would that solve the problem?
SUE: Well, no.That wouldn't solve the problem at all,because I know what would happen.She'd sort of--
MIKE SIMMONS: Which, hardly surprisingly,isn't any real help.Hardly surprisingly, because she has no idea what all this feelslike to Sue.Not only that, but she goes on to showthat she really doesn't want to know what it feels like to Sue.she certainly doesn't seem to wantto resolve everything here.It feels rather more as if she wants
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Sue to sit on her feelings.
SUE: --be able to work through what's happening.What I want to do-- and what I hope you might have me do--is try and sort of work this out with her.
AMELIA: Work this out?
SUE: Yeah.Give me some confidence, or help me get some confidencein this situation.Can you help me work it out, Amelia?
AMELIA: Right, yeah.I mean, I suppose what I meant by that was that sometimes youcan have-- I wouldn't want to encouragean argument in that sense.Obviously, we get those sometimes in the worksituation.
SUE: With her, you mean?
AMELIA: Yeah.I wouldn't want to encourage an argument.I mean, obviously we want things go smoothly,don't we, in that sense.
MIKE SIMMONS: In the good practice session,Amelia simply help her worker to tell her story.Her responses are tentative and keepto Sue's frame of reference.She is showing her concern by the way she is.
SUE: She's never taken a break, and I have.And I suppose she makes me feel quite small.
SUE: Sometimes I get the feeling that she enjoys doing that.
AMELIA: Right.So in a sense, it almost feels asif you don't have very much of a voice with this colleague.
SUE: Exactly.I might be a flatland most of the time.
MIKE SIMMONS: Compare that with this clip, takenfrom the bad practice session.
AMELIA: I mean, I'm concerned about you.And I'm your manager and I want youto make sure everything's going to be OK for youand to make it work-- to help you make it work here.Because I've heard good reports, by the way, about your work.
MIKE SIMMONS: Did that, "I want to help you make it work here,"ring true, do you think?In the other session, we just seeAmelia working to clarify exactly what the issue is.
SUE: --happening between us.
AMELIA: OK, so are you saying that you feel small with herall the time, or just with other people, or both?How does that--
SUE: When I'm with her on my own, I don't feel as small.I'm able to assert myself.As I said, I wanted to do--
MIKE SIMMONS: The bad practice sessionis now going from bad to worse.Sue has expressed her dissatisfactionwith the session, and Amelia has ignored this entirelyand is simply denying the reality of what Sue is feeling.
SUE: And what I expected from youis some help in sourcing a hand.And what I actually feel is more distressed at the momentthan when I--
AMELIA: Came in.
SUE: Sat down, yeah.
AMELIA: Well, I suppose I wouldn'twant you to think that it was something to getto sort of steamed up about.I just wanted us to get to a pointwhere we could just look at the issue and see if we can--
SUE: No, I feel like I'm going to explode, actually.Don't get too steamed up about it?It's been affecting me for three months--
MIKE SIMMONS: That, "I wouldn't wantyou to think it was something to get too steamed up about,"was inevitably going to leave Sue feeling raw, and it did.You might say it was exactly the oppositeof an empathic response.Sue was steamed up, and it was ignored.Compare that with this, and look out for that-- ah, right,
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: so it's changed.
SUE: More able.It's difficult, but I do it.And I make a very conscious effort to do it,and it's getting better.
AMELIA: Ah, right.So it's changing.
SUE: It is, yes.
MIKE SIMMONS: It was important for Suethat this should be recognized.Meanwhile, in the other session, Sueis getting more and more dissatisfied with what'sgoing on.And at least to some extent, Amelia acknowledges that.She wants to start again, and it seems possiblethat they could finally get somewhere.
AMELIA: So I'm sorry if you feel that that seems to havegot you more angry in a way.And I know that coming back to work is important,so can we just look again at what's going on for you,
AMELIA [continued]: and how we want to just sort of move through this?
SUE: OK.Well, yeah.I would like to look at it again.
SUE: I'd like to make a fresh start, really,because what's happened so far hasn't been helpful.
MIKE SIMMONS: Maybe they could have started again.Maybe everything could've been all right.But now we see what happens if you don'tavoid unnecessary disturbance.
SUE: --value my work, and I really want to stay in the job.[PHONE RINGING]
AMELIA: Look, hang on a minute.Hello?Hello, who's that?I'm a bit tied up at the moment.Can I get back to you?Yeah, yeah.It's in the top-right hand shelf of the cupboard,and it's in that green container marked "residential."
AMELIA [continued]: All right?And when you've finished with it,can you put it back in there, please, and lock the cupboardafter you?OK, bye.
MIKE SIMMONS: You'll notice that she says, "I'm a bit tied up,can I get back to you?" which would have been appropriate.But she then continues with the call.It's easy to see the impact this is having on Sue.And of course, the good session is still going well.Look out for that, "Can you say more about that?"
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: It encourages Sue to explore further.
SUE: Because I think I am making changes around that.And in my mind, I'm just thinking about,how do I do that, and could I do that in a group?[SMALL ENCOURAGERS]
AMELIA: Can you say more about that?How have you noticed yourself handling that?
SUE: I think it's almost like putting an armor on.It might sound silly, but it's preparing myself.Instead of going in very vulnerable and gullible,when I'm on my own with her, I've started saying,what's she likely to do and what are you going to say?
SUE: Why for some reason when we go into the big groupI feel much more exposed, and I haven'tgot that armor or that protective sort of feeling,I don't know.But I think I could start planningabout what she's going to say to me,and instead of just planning how I'm going to get her back--or get a one-up-- probably manage it in a different way
SUE [continued]: and make some plans about protecting myself.
MIKE SIMMONS: This pretty much speaks for itself.Things seem to have got just about as bad as they can.
AMELIA: But I do want to keep on top of everything,and I do want to make sure that everybody is happy.I certainly see it as in all our interestsfor everybody to be happy at work,and it's not good if they're not.
SUE: Yes, I'm not actually saying I want to be happy.That's not-- you obviously haven't heard,because I don't want to be happy.I want to be able to manage this situation in an adult way,not be happy.That makes me feel like some sort of child whowants to learn how to skip around the playground.I just want to learn how to be adult in this situation
SUE [continued]: and manage this work relationship in a way that'sbeneficial for me and the organization.Because up until about 10 minutes ago,I did feel some loyalty towards the organization.But I'm feeling extremely angry now,not heard, and as if I am quite likely to just walk away,honestly.
MIKE SIMMONS: Meanwhile, the other sessionleads to a moment of real insight for Sue.
SUE: That's actually a relief.I feel like I'm telling you this story,and that you must think I'm really stupid.
AMELIA: Right, because you do keepsaying this about yourself-- this might sound silly,this might sound stupid.Almost as a kind of way of putting yourself down, really.Are you aware that you're talking about somebodyelse doing it, and also I'm noticing you do that to you.
SUE: To myself.[end of the sessions]
MIKE SIMMONS: Now, these were both just roleplays, of course, but they weren't scripted.Sue and Amelia started off with a scenariothat looked as if it could be useful,and then just went with it.What we saw was the difference madeto the outcome of a session when counseling skills werebeing effectively employed.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: And that pretty much brings us to the end of this program.We've covered a lot.And if you're able to put just someof what we've looked at into practice,it's likely to make a real change in the way in which yourelate to other people, and it's certainlylikely to help you to be more effective in your work.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: We've been looking at the ways in which youcan help people to tell you what they need to tell you.This means that you've had to hold backfrom talking about you and your world,and you've had to forget about your agenda-- at leasttemporarily-- and to try to understandhow things feel like from someone else's point of view.
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: This is going to be valuable for both of you,but don't forget that you have needs, too.And though in your work role with othersit may not be appropriate to voice them,you also need people to talk to.Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you alwayshave to be the listener.There may be times when interrupting, changing
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: the subject, and talking about thingsfrom your own point-of-view might be justwhat you need to do.[MUSIC PLAYING]
MIKE SIMMONS [continued]: Are you in Yarrow?Are you in the Yelverton?Are you in [INAUDIBLE]?Are you in York?Are you in the Ystrad Mynach?Are you in [INAUDIBLE]?Well, I don't know where you are.Where are you, then?
Are you in Zennor?
View Segments Segment :
This film introduces counseling skills that everyone can utilize to build interpersonal relationship skills. Mike Simmons discusses perception of others, listening skills, and effective use of empathic responses and questions.
This film introduces counseling skills that everyone can utilize to build interpersonal relationship skills. Mike Simmons discusses perception of others, listening skills, and effective use of empathic responses and questions.