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IBLCE Study Tip #4: Counseling

We’re back with Ms. B today (gee, I wonder who that could be?), considering the nature of counseling questions, without the distracting details of a lactation-based example.

To recap, scenario #1:

Ms. B just finished driving from her home in Virginia to her family’s homes south of Rochester. She is talking on and on about what she must do before she leaves, how often she needs to stop, and the stamina needed to make the 350-mile trip. Which of the following would you say to Ms. B?

A. Intersperse her conversation with “mmm,” “yes,” “I see,” and “go on” as appropriate.
B. “I can see you don’t look forward to making the drive.  Have you considered taking a plane instead?”
C. “How frustrating! I’ll bet you felt pretty wiped out by the time you get there!”
D. “Yes, making a 350-mile trip alone takes so much planning and stamina that you probably wish you had stayed home!”

The answer? (Drum roll, please.) A.

Ms. B is just giving a description of what is going on. Saying “mmmm” or “yes” or “go on” is commonly known as “attending.” Attending is the lowest level of active listening. I think of it as what you would say on the phone when you want someone to know that you haven’t lost the connection. Used in person, this is a way to show that you are still “connected” with what the person is saying. In this case, Ms. B does not seem emotional about the situation; she is merely stating what it’s like to make the drive.

Response B is incorrect for two reasons. First, the listener has jumped to the conclusion that Ms. B doesn’t look forward to the drive, which has not been expressed. Second, “have you considered taking a plane” is somewhat judgmental, bordering on telling Ms. B what to do.

Option C reflects feelings, but Ms. B. has not expressed any feelings here.

Option D also jumps to a conclusion. Ms. B. has merely told her story, and the listener has no real reason to interpret her account as wishing she had stayed home.

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Now, scenario #2. To recap:

Ms. B just finished driving from her home in Virginia to her family’s homes south of Rochester. She is giving a play-by-play account of the multiple delays she encountered with construction, holiday travelers, and other issues that made traffic come to a dead halt along the way. She goes on to report that her usual coping strategies–listening to her iPod, making phone calls–are not working for one reason or another. You note that her voice is nearly quivering as she tells you how this particular 350-mile trip was interminably slow. Which of the following would you say to Ms. B?
A. Intersperse her conversation with “mmm,” “yes,” “I see,” and “go on” as appropriate.
B. “I can see you don’t look forward to making the drive.  Have you considered taking a plane instead?”
C. “How frustrating! I’ll bet you felt pretty wiped out by the time you get there!”
D. “Yes, making a 350-mile trip alone takes so much planning and stamina that you probably wish you had stayed home!”

The answer for scenario #2? C.

Option C is excellent, because it reflects what the listener interprets to be Ms. B’s feelings. Ms. B is showing some strong feelings; her voice is quivering, and the listener has heard that her coping mechanisms are not available.

Option A is incorrect because “mmmm” and “yes” and “I see” and “go on” are the lowest level of listening. Because Ms. B’s words and tone are emotionally-loaded, the listener should instead reflect feelings.

Again, option B is inappropriate because it is somewhat judgmental, bordering on telling Ms. B what to do.

Option D jumps to conclusions. Although this does reflect feelings, it’s not the “planning and stamina” that are downers for Ms. B. It’s the multiple and excessive traffic delays that permeate her story.

Note that the response options for these two scenarios are exactly the same, but the ways in which the speaker presents the story is very different. Hence, in a counseling situation, the answers must be very different.

Stay tuned for more about counseling tomorrow!

IBLCE Study Tip #5: Counseling Don'ts--and Do
IBLCE Exam Study Tip #3: Counseling

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