Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Awkwardness of Paraphrasing

I am the most comfortable with active listening as a micro-skill because I have a natural interest in people and I enjoy and appreciate listening to their stories. I feel somewhat honored when people tell me something personal, and I find the better I listen, the more value the individual places on his or her relationship with me. People need to be listened to, appreciated, and valued, and I find it satisfying to facilitate that need in a social context. I believe this natural tendency will help me understand deeply the experiences and challenges of my clients.

I am least comfortable with paraphrasing and I will have to practice so I don't sound like a ridiculous empty-headed parrot. If I were in counseling and the individual consistently rephrased what I had just said, I would believe, with certainty, they weren't really listening in the first place. Alternately, I might feel patronized in some pre-determined technical way, and rather than parroting my words and using a practiced technique, they should pay better attention. I see its value but am acutely aware of how technique-like such parroting might seem to the client. On the other side of this skill, sometimes referred to as reflecting, I am comfortable receiving information and perceiving it on another level, not as a contrived parroting, but a thoughtful acknowledgment of a different aspect of the idea.

I fear I would be a tremendously judgmental client.

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