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Following Skills

The following cluster includes the following skills:

Door Openers

Minimal Encourages

Infrequent Questions

Attentive Scilence

The listener has a specific responsibility in the course of communication. That is to stay out of the speakers way and to try and follow where he or she is leading. The goal of listening is not responding but understanding what is trying to be communicated.

A door opener is a noncoercive inivitation to talk. Sometimes door openers are not necessay to "get the ball rolling", but may be needed later in the conversation if the speaker does not seem to want to continue. Door openers don't have to be verbal cues, a good listener can also use his or her body to send the signal "I am interested, you have my attention, please tell me more." The "four elements" of a door opener, as discussed, by Bolton are;

(1) A discription of the other person's body language (i.e., you don't look like you are feeling well today.)

(2) An invitation to talk

(3) Silence (to give the other person time to decide if they want to talk and what they are going to say.)

(4) Attending (this inclueds all of the attending skills that are discused on the attending skills page.)

What on earth are "minimal encourages?" In the attempt to follow it is important not to become a nonparticipant in the conversation. Minimal encourages refers to the amount the listener speakes and the amount of direction the listener gives to the conversation, which should be very little. Sometimes encouragement is needed but the speaker needs to remain in control of the conversation.

The same is true for questioning as is for encouraging. The problem is not questioning itself but the fact that most people do not do it well. Most people ask closed questions that only require specific and short answers such as "yes" and "no." The trick is to ask open questions that are designed to spur the conversation on when it gets stuck. This means that questioning will be relatively infrequent.

Finally, attentive silence is one of the most important elements in following the listener. We live in a culture in which silence is not comfortable. We often inturpert it as a cue that we need to jump in and say something. In fact, silence is an opportunity for the speaker to reflect on what he or she has said and to gather their thoughts before their next statment. What we say is not as important as giving the speaker the time he or she needs to clearly communicate their point.

Introduction to listening skills