Two Northern girls on Bolton Station

Two Northern girls on Bolton Station

There are eight of us sitting in a circle. I am wondering if I am in the right place. The three trainers  have introduced themselves as from the end of life team.

I have come for a two day “advanced communication skills” course.     I don’t really want to talk about death!    Yikes, time enough for that when it comes…Still it is better than working so I settle back to see what it is all about.

The other seven participants seem just as bewildered.  We are all in “caring ” professions.  A doctor, a teacher, lady who works with children, a physio, radiographer, district nurse,occupational therapist . … So the trainers say they will adapt the course to fit our needs.

After the usual introductions and ground rules, the trainers go through the theory.  This is not new to me,  as I trained and practised  as a counsellor many years ago, but gave it up after a few years because of burnout. and now feel I have lost a lot of those skills.   So it is nice to have a refresher.  I am looking forward to revisiting.

 Here is the list  of facilitative skills

Picking up clues.  ( body language,  what do you see?  what do you hear. what do they repeat?)

Ask open questions.  ( ones that require more than a yes or no, eg. ” what was it about the concert that you liked?)

Acknowledge how they feel,  ( “I can see that this upsets/ makes you angry/ distresses you/ makes you feel happy”)

Reflect or paraphrase, check and clarify   (  so you are saying hat you fell down the stairs and there was nobody around?))

Pauses….(give the person time  for their mind to work and process what is happening for them)

Minimal prompts… with a nod or just a “yes”

Your body language.  make eye contact. Lean forward.

Empathy….. .  say what you see. Say what you hear.

So then we get to the difficult part…role play.   Even worse we are videoed     Everybody says they hate role play, but of course it is expected on a course like this.    I volunteer to go first (get it over with!)   and pick a scenario where I am required to ask difficult questions from my clients and they get angry and defensive.

The trainer is a good actress,  at first I am a bit taken about when my “client” becomes angry, more angry than my clients usually do.  But it is good experience, looking at how and why I react as I do.   Mid way I find myself starting to laugh at the false indignation of the “client”.

Then it is time for the critique from my peers.  Holy moley!    I feel like crawling under the chair.

They are very kind and gentle with me, focussing on the good things frst,  my body language,  the pauses.  ( which were actually because I couldn’t think what to say next!)

…but then the not so good things.  It is obvious that my agenda, of  questions I have  to ask the client were getting in the way of  communicating with her,  and it was also obvious I had opened a can of worms with my questions.

So I try again.  Much  better this time.  Instead of concentrating on the job in hand I, take a step back and try to be more aware of the client and what is happening for her.  This time, she is less defensive, anxious and angry,  I get more information and find out what she is really hiding. Plus it actually takes less time to get the information I require.

Phew!  I am so glad I went first.

The next two days we observed each other in similar situations.  I leaned so much form observing what my colleagues did right and wrong.

I learned to be more aware of my own agenda.  What is happening for me.

I learned to step back and observe what is happening both in my public and personal life, instead of (as we all do) charging ahead with my own  agenda.

I learned to be more aware of other peoples body language.

I learned how to have more empathy with people.

..and I learned that the above helps you to get to the nitty gritty much faster and avoid misunderstandings.

Have a good day.

Love Denise

and the picture at the top?……well this has nothing to do with this post.  I just love this picture.   I snapped these girls on a train journey and I was fascinated with them all the way.  They were just going for a day out shopping, but were so wrapped up in facebook, boys, and clothes.  They spent the entire journey re doing their make up.  Obviously never heard of less is more! LOL!



  1. Oh my Denise! You were brave to go first – not sure I would have had the nerve to do that! What an interesting clinic – must have been difficult at first to hear the negatives – as you say, we all get so caught up in our own agenda that we forget about the other person’s thoughts and needs (speaking for myself here) I had to attend seminars like this when I was working and I hated it – maybe that’s why I forgot most of what we were taught! Except for the body language part – I got so used to observing the body language of people applying for a job that I still do it.

    Great post – thanks!


  2. Not really brave Sandy. I just waned to get it over with, otherwise I would be sat there thinking about when my turn came. Going first enabled me to sit back and relax and learn from the others.

    Love Denise


I love to hear your thoughts on my blog. please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.