Attending is the art and skill of giving full, physical attention to another person. Effective attending is a careful balance of alertness and relaxation that includes appropriate body movement, eye contact, and “posture of involvement”. Fully attending says to the speaker, “What you are saying is very important. I am totally present and intent on understanding you”. We create a posture of involvement by:
• Leaning gently towards the speaker
• Facing the other person squarely;
• Maintaining an open posture with arms and legs uncrossed;
• Maintaining an appropriate distance between us and the speaker;
• Moving our bodies in response to the speaker, i.e., appropriate head nodding, facial expressions.
Being Aware of the Speakers Nonverbal Messages
When we pay attention to a speaker’s body language we gain insight into how that person is feeling as well as the intensity of the feeling.
Paying Attention to the Words and Feelings
In order to understand the total meaning of a message, we must be able to gain understanding about both the feeling and the content of the message. We are often more comfortable dealing with the content rather than the feelings (i.e., the relationship), particularly when the feelings are intense. Our tendency is to try and ignore the emotional aspect of the message/conflict and move directly to the substance of the issues.
Verbal Communication Barriers
• Attacking (interrogating, criticizing, blaming, shaming)
• “You Messages” (moralizing, preaching, advising, diagnosing)
• Showing Power (ordering, threatening, commanding, directing)
• Other Verbal Barriers: shouting, name calling, refusing to speak.
Non-verbal Communication Barriers
1. Flashing or rolling eyes
2. Quick or slow movements
3. Arms crossed, legs crossed
4. Gestures made with exasperation
5. Slouching, hunching over
6. Poor personal care
8. Staring at people or avoiding eye contact
9. Excessive fidgeting with materials