7 Basic Attending Skills (you may need)

In this article we will look at basic attending skills and their components. This article also explores why attending skills are important, and what is the purpose of attending skills, especially in counselling.

What are Basic Attending Skills?

Ivey (1971) coined the term “basic attending skills” to explain a collection of verbal and nonverbal behaviours that facilitate effective listening and communication. These skills enable us to remain connected to our clients’ experiences and show them that we are more interested in them than we are in ourselves. You can communicate with your clients and effectively listen to them if you have good attending and listening skills. Empathy, or the capacity to be open to and make sense of the world of another human being, requires these skills.

The Components Of Attending Skills

Attending behaviour has four dimensions including three non verbal and one verbal component.

Non Verbal Components

  • Vocal quality: The tone and inflections of your voice are termed vocal quality not the substance of what you say . In certain cases, pacing would be reasonable and efficient; this is referred to as matching the client’s vocal qualities. You can also guide the client with your vocal abilities.
  • Body language: Leaning subtly toward the client, keeping a comfortable yet attentive stance, mirroring, and other positive body language approaches are common. Trying to match the client’s facial expressions and bodily posture is known as mirroring.
  • Visual eye contact: Direct eye contact is often perceived as being too aggressive in Asian and Native American societies. Most clients would be comfy with more eye contact when you’re speaking and less eye contact whenever they’re talking—but this may differ depending on the culture.

Verbal Component

  • Verbal tracking: This attending skill requires using words to show the client that you’re paying attention to whatever he or she says. It entails rephrasing or summarising the client’s expressed thoughts.

Seven Basic Attending Skills

Here is a complete breakdown of the seven basic attending skills which are essential and invaluable in therapy:

SkillVerbal/Non-verbalDefinition and Function
Attending BehaviourVerbal+Non-verbalIndependently and culturally acceptable verbal and nonverbal behaviour in the session is critical to the helping process—culturally acceptable eye contact, vocal tone, body language, and verbal tracking are just a few examples. This shows that you’re paying attention and helps the client to speak more openly.
Vocal qualityNon-verbalThe tone and inflections of your voice are termed vocal quality not the substance of what you say . In certain cases, pacing would be reasonable and efficient; this is referred to as matching the client’s vocal qualities. You can also guide the client with your vocal abilities.
Body languageNon-verbalLeaning subtly toward the client, keeping a comfortable yet attentive stance, mirroring, and other positive body language approaches are common. Trying to match the client’s facial expressions and bodily posture is known as mirroring.
Visual eye contactNon-verbalDirect eye contact is often perceived as being too aggressive in Asian and Native American societies. Most clients would be comfy with more eye contact when you’re speaking and less eye contact whenever they’re talking—but this may differ depending on the culture.
Verbal trackingVerbalThis attending skill requires using words to show the client that you’re paying attention to whatever he or she says. It entails rephrasing or summarising the client’s expressed thoughts.
Open QuestionsVerbalShort responses, such as head nodding, “uh-huh,” and single words or phrases, are encouraging. They promote in-depth exploration for clients and provide clarification of context. Among the most powerful encouragement is appropriate smiling.
EncouragingVerbal+Non-verbalWhat, how, or could are common starting words for open questions. They assist the client in exploring topics and having more in-depth conversations. Closed questions often start with the words do, is, or are, and lead to targeted, sometimes shorter answers. While questions can help you learn more about a client’s narrative or problem, be cautious. If you question the client too much, the client can becomedefensive. You don’t want to make it seem like an interrogation.
ParaphrasingVerbalThe paraphrase relays the meaning of what has been said by the client. The paraphrase serves as a check on your listening ability and can allow the client to proceed on to a newer and deeper subject.
RestatingVerbalYou choose a few main terms and reiterate them precisely in the restatement. It functions similarly to an encourager, but it emphasizes in greater detail on a central issue.
Reflecting of Feelings +
Responding to Emotions
Verbal+Non-verbalEmotions and thoughts must be drawn out and acknowledged from beneath the client’s worries and issues. The aim is to recognise and convey the intrinsic emotional experience to the client.Ability to understand a client’s deeper needs and desires requires an exploration of emotion. Trying to clarify emotion helps clients make better decisions and take action. Clients sometimes use the terms “confused” or “frustrated” and one of the most main objectives is to explain conflicting emotions.
SummarisingVerbalThis skill requires you to relay to the client the gist of lengthy statements or an entire session. Most summarizations should include behaviours, thoughts, and emotional details. This skill is valuable for elucidating what transpired during the session, as well as at the start and end of the session.
Skill IntegrationYou’ll use only your listening skills to incorporate the skills mentioned above into a well-structured session. Many clients feel that if you just listen to them entirely, they will address their dilemmas on their own.

Attending Skills Do’s Attending Skills Don’ts 

  • Most of us are inclined to offer instant advice and solutions to people coming to us with a problem. 
  • We make helpful suggestions, only to be shocked and confused when our suggestions are dismissed. 
  • Most people’s problems and life issues can be resolved if we actually listen to them properly. It’s probable that no advice is needed!
  • Keep in mind that client problems are often built over a period of time and could be more complicated than we initially assumed. 
  • It is more sensible to pause for a moment and really listen to our clients before discussing what should be done.
  • Oftentimes, if you listen and pay attention to others, they will fix problems on their own. 
  • Listening to them and allowing them to discover their own strengths are essential parts of the therapeutic alliance. 
  • We now understand that the relationship with a client accounts for 30% of the factors that influence whether or not a session is successful.
  • An empathic relationship is described as one where the therapist and the client are in harmony. 
  • You can sense and appreciate the other person’s thoughts and emotions by being with them. 
  • A working alliance is another term for an empathic relationship, where the therapist and the client work on goals, hopes, and ambitions.
  • Beginner counsellors have a propensity to become excessively enthralled by “war tales,” or the simple truth of another person’s issues and concerns. 
  • As a result, their concerns, remarks, and focus are overwhelmingly centered on the client’s negative attributes. It’s interesting to hear about the personal details of someone else’s life.
  • However, supporting does not imply snooping into other people’s affairs. When you concentrate on war tales the client is often drawn into your trap, relieved that somebody is actually paying attention to their problems. 
  • The need for the naive counsellor to pry into some other person’s life and the client’s need to express how “evil” the world is, may lead to a spiral that exaggerates the situation.

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Resources For Further Learning

Basic Attending Skills

Conclusion

In this article we will look at basic attending skills and their components. This article also explores why attending skills are important, and what is the purpose of attending skills, especially in counselling.

Frequently Asked Questions: Basic Attending Skills

What are the four components of attending behavior?

Attending behavior has four dimensions

3 Non-verbal 

Visual eye contact

Vocal

Body language.

1 Verbal

Verbal Tracking

What is the purpose of attending Behaviour in Counselling?

Attending behaviour is a counselling microskill that encourages clients to speak by indicating that the counsellor is paying attention to what they’re saying. When does it come into play? During the whole therapy session. This is particularly true in the early stages of developing rapport.

What is the importance of basic attending skills during the session?

Simple attending skills are critical throughout the session in order to obtain a better understanding of the client’s internal experience of the crisis. The client’s thoughts and emotions about his situation should be the focal point.

How do you show attending skills?

Here is a list of tips to help in showing attending skills:

  • Make a point of addressing the speaker by name.
  • Use motivating phrases like “Uh huh,” “Go ahead,” and “I’m listening.”
  • Slightly lean toward the speaker.
  • Maintain eye contact that is acceptable.
  • Show curiosity and concern in your facial expressions.
  • To express agreement, nod your head.
  • Avoid distractions as much as possible.

What is attending behavior in counseling?

Any action taken by a person while carefully listening to and watching a speaker, such as making eye contact and adopting an open, engaged posture. Active listening and supportive attending behaviours are deemed to be the main pillars of a therapist’s or counselor’s overall capacity.

What is the difference between directive and nondirective counseling?

When the therapist directs the therapeutic process, it is known as directive therapy. When you provide cognitive behavioural therapy, for instance, you are providing the client guidance for dealing with the problem as well as assisting them in practising particular strategies. On the other hand, the client takes the lead in non-directive counselling.

References

What is the purpose of using basic attending skills?

What are the four components of attending behavior?

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