Unformatted text preview: Running head: CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 1 THE THERAPEUTIC DIALOGUE: COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING
Chapter 3 EMPATHIC PRESENCE: TUNING IN AND LISTENING
Part II of The Skilled Helper deals with the communication skills needed to engage clients in a
therapeutic dialogue. The quality of the dialogue affects everything in the problem-management
process. This chapter has three parts: the importance of dialogue, the skill of attending or tuning
in, and the skill of active listening.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DIALOGUE As useful as dialogue might be in human communication,
it is not that common—at least in its fullness. Helpers need to become skilled in dialogue
themselves and in helping clients engage in dialogue.
EXERCISE 3.1: UNDERSTANDING AND PERSONALIZING THE FOUR REQUIREMENTS OF TRUE DIALOGUE
1. Read the section in Chapter 3 that describes the requirements of a true dialogue—turn taking,
connecting, mutual influencing, and co-creating outcomes.
2. Think of an important and, if possible, relatively recent conversation that went poorly.
3. Which elements of dialogue were missing or done poorly and therefore might have
contributed to the conversation’s poor outcome? ________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________ 4. Next, think of an important conversation that went well. 5. Which elements of effective
dialogue might have contributed to the success of this conversation? ________________________________________________________________________ CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 2 ______________________________________________________________________________
6. Share your findings with a learning partner.
7. Rate yourself (1-7) on your competence in engaging in dialogue and generally conducting
serious conversations in the spirit of dialogue. _____ EXERCISE 3.2: DIALOGUE IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Not all conversations need to be true dialogues. However, most conversations would probably be
more productive if they were conducted in the spirit of dialogue. Often enough, dialogue in its
fullest sense would make a big difference to the outcome of the conversation.
1. In this exercise, have a conversation with your learning partner. Choose any topic that has
some substance and is agreeable to both of you. Talk for about 10 minutes. Make a video
2. of the session.
After ten minutes play the video and debrief the conversation in the light of the
requirements of dialogue. The subject of the conversation. What was the conversation about? What substance did it have? Did it have enough substance to
warrant a serious dialogue?
In what ways did it live up to the requirements of dialogue?
______________________________________________________________________________ CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 3 ______________________________________________________________________________
In what way did it fail to live up to these requirements?
______________________________________________________________________________ 3. Continue the conversation for another 10 minutes. Video it. Make every effort to make it
a dialogue. After 10 more minutes stop and review the video with your partner again.
Discuss what progress was made. What positive outcome, if any, did the two of you cocreate through the conversation? Determine what it would take to make dialogue or the
spirit of dialogue second nature to your communication style.
ATTENDING: VISIBLY TUNING IN
Your posture, gestures, facial expressions, and voice all send nonverbal messages to your
clients. The purpose of the exercises in this section is to make you aware of the different
kinds of nonverbal messages you send to clients through such things as body posture, facial
expressions, and voice quality, and how to use nonverbal behavior to make contact and
communicate with them. It is important that what you say verbally is reinforced rather than
muddled or contradicted by your nonverbal messages. There are two important messages
about nonverbal behavior in this chapter. First, use your posture, gestures, facial expressions,
and voice to send messages you want to clients to hear, such as, “I’m listening to you very
carefully” or “I know what you’re saying is difficult for you, but I’m with you.” Second,
become aware of the messages your clients are sending to you through their nonverbal
behaviors. Learn how to understand them without over-interpreting them. CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 4 7. Name two things you could do to improve how you are present to others.
EXERCISE 3.5: OBSERVING AND GIVING FEEDBACK ON QUALITY OF PRESENCE In
the training sessions, make sure that your nonverbal behavior is helping you work effectively
with others and sending the messages you want to send. This exercise, then, pertains to the entire
length of the training program. You are asked to give ongoing feedback both to yourself and to
the other members of the training group on the quality of your presence to one another as you
interact, learn, and practice helping skills. Recall especially the basic elements of visibly tuning
in summarized by the acronym SOLER. Here is a checklist to help you provide that feedback to
yourself and your fellow helpers. Review the criteria for giving useful feedback found in the
Introduction to the Exercises.
•How effectively are you using postural cues to indicate your willingness to work with the
•In what ways do you distract clients and observers from the task at hand, for instance, by
•How flexible are you when engaging in SOLER behaviors? To what degree do these behaviors
help you be with the client?
•How natural is it for you to tune in to the client? What indications are there that you are not
•To what degree is your psychological presence reflected in your physical presence?
•What are you like when you miss the mark? •What are you like when you are at your best? CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 5 The ongoing question is: What do I have to do to become more effectively present to my clients
both physically and psychologically? Your posture and nonverbal behavior are an important part
of your presence, but there is more to presence than SOLER activities. There are the values and
spirit you bring to your encounters with your clients.
Read the sections on active listening in Chapter 3 of The Skilled Helper. Effective helpers are
active listeners. When you listen to clients, you listen to their stories. Some of the elements of
these stories are:
•their experiences, what they see as happening to them;
•their behaviors, what they do or fail to do; •their affect, the feelings and emotions that arise
from their experiences and behaviors;
•the core messages in their stories;
•their points of view expressed in their stories, including the reasons for their points of view and
the implications for holding any given point of view;
•the decisions they are making, together with the reasons for and implications or possible
consequences of those decisions;
•their intentions and proposals, that is, the goals they want to pursue and the actions they intend
to engage in;
•the wider context of their stories, points of view, decisions, and intentions; •any particular
“slant” they tend to give to any or all of the above. CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 6 Helpers listen carefully in order to respond with both understanding and at times, as we shall see
later, some sort of invitation to self-challenge. Let’s start by having you listen to yourself.
EXERCISE 3.6: LISTENING TO YOURSELF AS A PROBLEM SOLVER
In this exercise you are asked to “listen to yourself” in retrospect as you worked through some
important problem situation or spotted and developed some unused opportunity. Retell the story
to yourself in summary form. Example. Here is Acantha’s story in summary form. “What I have
to say is retrospective. I don’t believe I was thinking this clearly back then. I got drunk during a
football game and don’t recall clearly what happened afterwards. I woke up in a guy’s room. I
knew I had been violated. I had no intention of having sex. At this point I became very aware of
what I was doing. My intention that day was to relax and have fun. My assumption was that no
one I was with had any ulterior motives. In one way I was not thinking straight. I should never
have drunk too much, but at the time I did not say that to myself. I never made a decision to
throw caution to the wind, but I did by letting others help me get drunk. My decision-making
abilities were lost. As soon as I woke up I began gathering my resources. I went for a long walk
and thought things through. I decided not to confront anyone except myself. Although I hoped
that I would not be pregnant, I began thinking how I would handle a pregnancy. Finally, I
thought I needed to talk all of this through with a friend or, perhaps better, an objective
counselor.” Now jot down a few highlights regarding how you manage your problem situation.
1. Debrief Acantha’s story by answering the following questions.
What was the issue?
What were her key experiences, that is, what happened to her?
___________________________________________________________________________ CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 7 ___________________________________________________________________________
What points of view of hers were involved?
What decisions did she make?
What emotions did she experience and express?
What did she do to cope with the problem or develop the opportunity? ___________________________________________________________________________
2. Provide a case from your own life.
2. Debrief by answering the above questions.
EXERCISE 3.7: LISTENING TO MYSELF AS A PERSON WITH FEELINGS AND
Since emotions are strong motivators for good or for bad and permeate stories, points of
view, decisions, and intentions, we turn to an exercise on emotions. If you are to listen to the
feelings and emotions of clients, you first should be familiar with your own emotional states
and your own style of emotional expression. This exercise is about your emotional style.
1. A lot has been written recently about “emotional intelligence.” Find an article that
summarizes current thinking about emotional intelligence and its place in people’s lives.
You will soon discover that, for many, the concept of emotional intelligence covers a lot
more than emotions. It is an answer to the question: What does adult maturity look like? CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 8 But let’s start with feelings and emotions. Answer the following question about yourself
as an “emotional” person.
What role do emotions play in your life? __________________________________________________________________________
How effectively do you control or manage negative emotions such as anger or hurt?
Which emotions are hardest for you to manage? What happens? ___________________________________________________________________________ What role do positive emotions such as eagerness, joy, and contentment play in your life?
Comment on this statement: There is no such thing as a perfect emotional style.
______________________________________________________________________________ 2. A number of emotional states are listed below. You are asked to describe what you feel
when you feel these emotions. Describe what you feel as concretely as possible: How
does your body react? What happens inside you? What do you feel like doing? Consider
the following examples.
Example 1 Accepted: When I feel accepted,
· I feel warm inside. CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 9 · I feel safe.
· I feel free to be myself.
· I feel like sitting back and relaxing.
· I feel I can let my guard down.
· I feel like sharing myself.
· I feel some of my fears easing away.
· I feel at home.
· I feel at peace.
· I feel my loneliness melting away.
Example 2 Scared: When I feel scared, · my mouth dries up. · my bowels become loose. · there
are butterflies in my stomach
· I feel like running away.
· I feel very uncomfortable. ·
I feel the need to talk to someone.
· I turn in on myself.
· I’m unable to concentrate. ·
I feel very vulnerable.
· I sometimes feel like crying.
1. Choose three of the emotions listed below or others not on the list. Try your hand at the
emotions you have difficulty with. It’s important to listen to yourself when you are experiencing
emotions that are not easy for you to handle.
2. Picture to yourself situations in which you have experienced each of these three emotions.
3. Then, as in the example above, write down on a sheet of paper what you experienced. CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 10 4. What feelings are you most likely to avoid? Why? 1. accepted 2. affectionate 6. attracted 7. bored 11. desperate 12. disappointed 17. hurt 18. Inferior 22. joyful 3. afraid 23. lonely 5. Anxious 8. competitive 9. confused
13. free 24. loving satisfied 29. shocked 30. shy 4. angry 14. frustrated 19. interested
31. superior 10. defensive 15. guilty 16. hopeful 20. intimate 21. jealous 26. respected 27. sad 32. suspicious 28. 33. trusting The reason for this exercise is to sensitize yourself to the wide variety of ways in which clients
express and name their feelings and emotions. Diversity in emotional expression style is the
norm. Although the feelings and emotions of clients (not to mention your own) are extremely
important, sometimes helpers concentrate too much, or rather too exclusively, on them. Feelings
and emotions need to be understood, both by helpers and by clients, in the context of the
experiences and behaviors that give rise to them. On the other hand, when clients hide their
feelings, both from themselves and from others, then it is necessary to listen carefully to cues
indicating the existence of suppressed, ignored, or unmanaged emotions.
LISTENING THOUGHTFULLY TO CLIENTS’ STORIES
Listening thoughtfully means identifying the key elements of clients’ stories -experiences,
thoughts, behaviors, and feelings -and the relationships among them. Thoughtful listening is a
function of empathy.
EXERCISE 3.8: LISTENING FOR CORE MESSAGES CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 11 Core messages are the main points of a client’s story. The ingredients of core messages are key
experiences, key thoughts, and key behaviors, together with the key feelings or emotions
associated with them. In this exercise, you are asked to “listen to” and identify the key
experiences and behaviors that give rise to the client’s main feelings.
1. Listen very carefully to what the client is saying.
2. Identify the client’s key experiences, what he or she says is happening or has happened to him
3. Identify the client’s key thoughts—what is going through his/her mind.
4. Identify the client’s key behaviors, what he or she is doing, not doing, or failing to do.
5. Identify the key feelings and emotions associated with these experiences and behaviors.
Example: A 27-year-old African American man is talking to a minister about a visit with his
mother the previous day. He says, “I just don’t know what got into me! She kept nagging me the
way she always does, asking me why I don’t visit her more often. I kept asking myself where did
all of this come from. I knew I should have tried to reason with her or just say nothing, but, as
she went on, I got more and more angry. (He looks away from the counselor down toward the
floor.) I finally began screaming at her. I told her to get off my case. (He puts his hands over his
face.) I can’t believe what I did. I called her a bitch. (Shaking his head.) I called her a bitch
several times and then I left and slammed the door in her face.”
Key experiences: Mother’s nagging.
Key thoughts: What have I done to deserve this? I should keep my mouth shut.
Key behaviors: Losing his temper, yelling at her, calling her a name, slamming the door in her
face. CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 12 Feelings/emotions generated: He now feels embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, distraught,
disappointed with himself, remorseful. (Note carefully: This man is not at this moment
expressing anger. Rather he is talking about his anger, the way he lets his temper get away from
Now do the same with the following cases.
1. A 40-year-old Hispanic woman, married with no children, has had several sessions with a
counselor. She went because she was bored and felt that all the color had gone out of her
life. In a later session she says this: “These counseling sessions have really done me a great
deal of good! I’ve worked hard in these sessions, and it’s paid off. I enjoy my work more. I
actually look forward to meeting new people. My husband and I are talking more seriously
and decently to each other. At times he’s even tender toward me the way he used to be. Now
that I’ve begun to take charge of myself more and more, there’s just so much more freedom
in my life!”
Client’s key experiences:
Client’s key thoughts:
Client’s key behaviors:
_____________________________________________________________________________ CHAPTER 3 EXERCISES 13 _____________________________________________________________________________
How does the client feel about these experiences, thoughts, and behaviors?
3. A 20-year-old Asian American male college student who has volunteered to work with
struggling high school students finds that he is learning more than he imagined he would.
He tells his college advisor what it’s like: “These kids deal with problems I have never
had to face. Some days we’ll start by working on some bit of homework but before we’re
done they’re talking about being afraid of the gangs on the way to and from school. This
one kid starts and ends each day by helping his mom who has MS. In the morning he
gets her up and dresses her and in the evening he gets her ready for bed...
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- Fall '16
- Nonverbal Communication, partner