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My mailbox was full subsequent to my recent column in which I discussed the importance of 'active listening' — the ability to focus on the words of someone else. However, this is not an ability that can be employed when multitasking.
Attentive listening is a vital communication skill taken from the professional counselling model and it takes time, understanding, empathy and sensitivity in order to use it effectively.
Even today, there is still a common misconception that people seek counselling or therapy because they are either too weak to withstand everyday pressures or are deficient in some way. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, most of my clients who seek counselling are basically ordinary people who need a little help with specific challenges that require the value of a new perspective to achieve a particular goal.
They need someone with whom they can speak in a confidential environment; who will not judge them for who they are and what they want to do. These clients are everyday people who want to learn effective strategies to make their life better and healthier.
So let us look at a few of the issues that often arise in my counselling room:
* Workplace bullying: As much as we may think otherwise, bullying is, unfortunately, still to be found today with people using their position or expertise to intimidate others. That fact is that bullying can have a long-term, dramatic effect upon an individual and can leave them feeling isolated, in constant fear of going to work and can seriously impact their health. Counselling can often provide them with techniques to empower them to deal with the person involved and to bring greater control back into their lives.
* Stress: It is often mistakenly thought that stress is good for you, when in fact, long-term persistent stress is invariably harmful. A certain amount of pressure can certainly motivate and can therefore be useful, but stress is never so. Stress can be brought on by financial problems, conflict, moving house, work overload, role ambiguity and can present itself in a lack of concentration, inability to sleep at night, irritability, ill health and a basic inability to cope.
* Post-trauma stress: After an accident or traumatic event, people may often feel out of control of their feelings. However, they will be experiencing normal feelings after an abnormal event, which can manifest as intrusive images, inability to sleep at night and a constant revisiting of the traumatic incident. This is when counselling is valuable and sometimes essential.
* Self-esteem: This can greatly affect your well-being. Having high self-esteem means feeling confident, considering yourself to be of value and having self-respect. Low self-esteem is associated with self-doubt and self-criticism.
Counselling can give you a greater sense of worth and a strong sense of self. The therapist may work with you to be more confident, more assertive and self-aware. They will try to help you identify your strengths that boost, not deplete, your self-esteem. Furthermore, they will look at what realistic goals are possible to achieve.
* Relationship problems: All relationships go through their ups and downs, whether that be a relationship at home with a spouse or child, or a colleague at work. Sometimes, there are apparently irreconcilable differences and it may take an objective third-party to mediate between two people. Counselling can provide a safe environment to examine options and to see things from a different perspective.
There are countless other reasons why someone might seek counselling. The workplace can offer help to individuals going through such difficult times by the use of Human Resources (HR) or Occupational Health [OH] professionals who are trained to listen attentively to any problem whether it be stress, bullying, post trauma problems, relationships or bereavement.
However, they would need to be trained to know their boundaries and know when to refer onto a counsellor. Active listening is the first step to defuse problems and, in many cases, this technique will be sufficient to enable an individual to cope. However, it is important that HR and/or OH staff are supported by a trained professional who can provide guidance and support, as and when required.
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Source: Carole Spiers, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her book, 'Show Stress Who's Boss!', is available in all good bookshops