The attending cluster consist of the following Skills:
A Posture of Involvment
Appropriate Body Motion
Creating a Nondistrcting Enviroment
Bolton, in his book People Skills (1979), describes attending as giving all of your physical attention to another person. The process of attending, whether you realize it or not, has a considerable impact on the quality of communication that goes on between two people. For example, by attending you are saying to the other person "I am intersted in what you have to say", however, a lack of good attending communicates that "I really don't care about what you have to say."
The body can be used as a tool to facilitate good communication. This is done through positioning the parts of the body so that they invite and hold an interpersonal relation. A relaxed alertness expressed by body posture seems best suited for fostering good communication.
Bolton offers these suggestions to establish a posture of involvment:
Lean toward the speaker. This will communicate energy and attentiveness.
Face the other squarly (i.e., your right sholuder to the speakers left). This communicates your involvment. It is especially important for you to position yourself so that you are at eye level with the speaker if you are seen as a authority figure. This will circumnavigate feelings of threat and can greatly aid in forming an interpersonal relationship.
Maintaining an open posture is also important for fostering interpersonal relatedness. A closed posture (i.e., crossed arms and or legs) often communicates coldness and defensiveness.
You also need to be aware of your proximity to the speaker. We all have a concept of "personal space." When those boundaries are crossed it puts the other on the defensive and makes them feel uncomfortable. However, to much distance communicates aloofness and disconectedness.
Body motion, it's a funny thing! Have you ever paid attention to what your hands were doing during the course of a conversation? Some of us simply shove them in our pockets or let them hang aimlessly by our sides. Then there are others, like me, who tend to fling them around as if to place some kind of emphasis on each word! There is such a thing as too little and too much. Body motion is good but it can be over done if you are not careful. The purpose of gesturing when you are listening is to encourage the speaker to continue speaking. This can most easily be done with a periodic head nod. A good listener moves his or her body in response to the speaker.
Effective eye contact says that you are visually attuned to what the speaker is saying. Good eye contact involves focusing on the speakers face and occasionally shifting the focus to other parts of the body. The key is that the other is aware that they have your attention because your eyes are "on them". Good eye contact should seem natural to the other person. What ever you do, don't "stare them down." This makes you seem anxious and sometimes critical of them.
The environment where the communication takes place is also an important factor in whether an interpersonal relationship can be formed. It is not always posible to move the conversation into a private room or office, but every attempt should be made to reduce the number of distractions that are present.
In his book, The Skilled Helper (1998), Gerad Egan offers what he has labled the Micro Skills of Attending. The are very close to the infomation I have presented above from Bolton's People Skills. He has developed the following acronym to help counseling students remeber these vital skills in communication.
S - face the client squarly
O- have an open posture
L- lean into the conversation
E- eye contact
R- be relaxed
Introduction to listening skills