Listening Is Collaboration: The Basics

The importance of an open attitude was the subject of a previous article. An open attitude is largely your own responsibility. Yet it takes two to tango: You and the other are interdependent; an open attitude is but one side of the coin. If the other doesn’t tell you anything, you have nothing to listen to! In other words, listening is a collaboration and requires some form of interaction in what is called the collaborative relationship. In this relationship the other will need to be stimulated to be vulnerable, unless it is your aim only to talk about the weather! So next to your personal characteristics (including an unknowing and curious attitude), you will need to activate and stimulate interaction with the other. In this article I introduce the basics of this collaborative relationship and your role in its creation, in another article I will delve a little deeper into the subject. For now, let’s begin with the ideas of unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathy and how those three may be used to build this relationship. Continue reading “Listening Is Collaboration: The Basics”

An Open Attitude

Conversations run smoother when you have an open attitude towards your conversational partner and actively create a good working relationship. The collaboration is most effective when the other feels safe and listened to. This all sounds rather obvious, and is rather clichéd too. That’s why in this article we consider how to actually do this. Continue reading “An Open Attitude”

Do Difficult People Actually Exist?

Image: © 2016 P.L. Houtekamer

Try the following: Write down one of your good qualities and call that A. This can be any sort of quality, such as proactive, friendly or empathic. Now think about how another person would experience your behaviour if you were to exaggerate this good quality, and call this B. If you exaggerate ‘proactive’, for example, that could be experienced as meddling or pushy. There isn’t one correct answer; think about how you would experience an exaggerated behaviour in another. Now, think about what could be an opposite of B, but in a positive sense. For meddling that could be being patient, for example. This positive opposite, you call C. The last step is to exaggerate C: Someone who is too patient never gets going, or is passive, for example. This is called D. Now for the million-dollar question: Do people who demonstrate the behaviour D tend to irritate you? Continue reading “Do Difficult People Actually Exist?”

Patience: When To Intervene And When To Wait

Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photograph © 2016 M.F. van Alphen

One of the disadvantages of working in any professional capacity is that it is difficult to switch off your professional self when you leave your work environment. As a couple’s counsellor, you notice all the things in your own relationship that ‘don’t follow the rules’. When you work pedagogically, it becomes difficult not to correct your partner when he interacts differently with the children than the ideal described in your study books. The tendency to want to fix everything then needs to be suppressed, as also your need to convert. Couple’s counsellors, for example, aren’t immune to relationship issues, and often these issues arise because they cannot distance themselves from their profession in their own relationships. The lesson in this is that not every context requires intervention. Before you decide to intervene, you first need to ask yourself if it is relevant. At home it usually isn’t relevant, as you are the other’s partner, not the other’s therapist! Continue reading “Patience: When To Intervene And When To Wait”

The Importance of Role-Playing

A skill is more than just knowledge; it is knowledge applied effectively using specific behaviour. Behaviour can be learnt, and is perfected by practice. We who work with people love talking, and can easily be seduced into long discussions about strategies and techniques – while talking about, we aren’t fully learning. It is only when we experience how a technique works that it becomes part of our toolkit. An ideal way to practice is via role-plays. In this short article I discuss how to make these role-plays more effective. Continue reading “The Importance of Role-Playing”

Must You Talk About A Loss

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. Photograph © 2011 M.F. van Alphen

Loss has its roots in the environment – a situation arises in which something is lost. A loss is generally something irreversible, something permanent. It can be a loss of all kinds of things such as a loved one, your health (including the capabilities that are no longer available to you), a job, a relationship, trust (for example when your partner has had an affair), a marriage (after a divorce), or feelings of security or safety (after a traumatic experience). The key association with loss is that an attachment which has been developed is no more. Usually, sadness and depressive feelings stand at the forefront; but the whole gamut of negative emotions can also play a role. Continue reading “Must You Talk About A Loss”