Attending and Empathy Skills: Four components of attending behavior
Attending behavior is vital in inculcating empathy when interacting with various people. It involves applying culturally appropriate verbal, visual, body language, and vocal quality while listening and supporting the individual. Listening is the central skill when it comes to attending behaviors.
These observable behaviors encourage the person to open up and express themselves. Attention is significant in creating an empathetic relationship and in enhancing empathetic understanding. The 3 V’s + B model summarizes all the four components of attending behavior, which I play the role of a counselor and my roommate, Joe, as the client.
Attending Behavior Visual Component
The first component is visual, which mainly relies on the counselor’s eye contact patterns. It will be essential for me to make eye contact with Joe throughout the conversation and note all the breaks in eye contact by either of us. I may notice that Joe is distressed by the subject by observing him look away, breaking the eye contact. This is after considering the appropriateness of the eye contact in our cultural setting, middle-class in North America, where eye contact indicates interest in a conversation. This would have been inappropriate in particular cultural settings, particularly in Asian and African countries where direct eye contact is perceived as a sign of aggression.
I will also ensure that my voice quality communicates my feeling about Joe’s situation. I would ensure that my tone is prosodic to make him feel relaxed and heard. I would ensure that my pitch, speech breaks, hesitations, volume, and speech rate convey my emotional reaction to Joe. In addition to this, I would also observe Joe’s voice quality. I would observe how the changes in his pitch, vocal tones, and body movements’ patterns indicate his reaction to the subject of our conversation.
If the conversation is uncomfortable, I will use the quality of my voice to make Joe feel comfortable having a conversation with me. Being a party in the conversation, I am likely to have a particular emotional reaction at various points. I will ensure that I express the feeling only if it will make Joe comfortable and contribute to the conversation’s substance. When responding to Joe verbally, I will ensure that I implement verbal underlining, which I will express by emphasizing the different words and using a louder voice.
Attending Behavior Body Language Component
Body language is another component of the conversation between my roommate and I. My choice of body language will be after because Joe and I have been roommates and best friends since our first day on-campus. I will also consider the fact that Joe is a heterosexual male who is also mostly introverted. I will also consider the nature of the topic of our conversation. Having heard multiple sincere conversations, it is likely that both of us will be comfortable having a lengthy conversation.
I will also ensure that Hoe is at an arms-length distance from Joe and use minimal physical contact like a pat on the back or a handshake in congratulation. I will also ensure that I maintain an open post throughout the conversation. I will also observe Joe’s body language to learn more about his feeling for the conversation subject and react appropriately. In case he shows a more closed posture at specific points in the conversation.
Attending Behavior Verbal Tracking Component
Verbal tracking is another component of attending behavior that I will employ in my conversation with Joe. I will ensure that I avoid a sudden shift in my verbal communication to ensure that the other party in this conversation is comfortable at all times. I will be aware of the selective attention to certain aspects of the conversation. It helps pay attention to the essential aspects first, then other aspects in the order of urgency.
I will be keen to observe the various aspects of the conversation picked up by Joe’s selective attention. I will observe some sentimental periphery aspects to our discussion and avoid forcing him into an objective conversation, as it might compromise the authenticity of his feedback. I will also try to match Joe’s topic and language use. It is a lengthy discussion; it is likely to hit some tangents where either uses shifts into an unrelated topic. I will ensure that we redirect our attention to the central topic of discussion. I will also ensure that there is silence by pausing right before responding and employing pregnant pauses in the middle of my statements.
Attending Behavior and Culture
Culture is an essential part of attending behavior. The choice of verbal and nonverbal cues to use in a conversation depends on that cultural setting. Culture is also essential in interpreting the other party’s body language, verbal language use, and expressing their ideas. Just as there are multiple spoken languages globally, there is also a diverse assortment of nonverbal communication cues that mean various things in multiple cultural settings.
The relationship between nonverbal cues and cultural context plays a vital part in human communication and interaction. Without understanding the cultural context of a given cue, verbal or nonverbal, one is likely to misinterpret the whole message in a conversation. This relationship is exploited in various professions like medicine and psychology and can be exploited in social interaction, making it necessary for people to understand their culture and those of the people around us.
Three Types of Empathy
Empathy is the ability to pick up the feelings and thoughts of another person and correctly interpret them, which is vital in understanding. Therefore, it involves observing a particular matter from another party’s point of view. This is quite different from empathy; one is moved by their emotion when listening to other parties. In attending behavior, one must maintain a safe emotional distance. There are three types of empathy.
The first type involves cognitive empathy, also known as perspective-taking, where one party feels the other predicaments. They, however, do not have to react emotionally. Here, one party, for example, the therapist, can be feeling physically along with their clients. The last type of empathy is compassionate empathy, which involves paying attention to a person’s predicaments, feeling the emotional reactions, and reaching out to help them.
Receiving Empathy Illustrations
It is gratifying to show empathy to other people, but it feels better to receive empathy from other people, whether friends, family, or strangers. I recently lost my daughter’s mother, and I received overwhelming empathy from everyone around me; different people expressed varying empathy types. My employer, who has always been very supportive and encouraging, was horrified and expressed his sympathy.
He was also compassionate enough to give me six weeks of paid leave to deal with the loss. On the other hand, my classmates gave me emotional support through a difficult period by empathizing with my loss, and some shared their experiences of loss in their lives. My close friends and family, therefore, for me all along until now when they have been ensuring that I am recovering from that loss the right way.