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Lesson 3 - Listening and Speaking to Clients

Effective Listening and Learning

Speaking to Clients

Dealing with Concerns that Parents Raise


Empathy vs. Sympathy






Effective Listening and Learning

One of the greatest gifts you can offer is the gift of understanding. No two parents are alike. That means your understanding will be dependent in part by your listening skills. Effective listening requires patience, confidence, concern and the ability to suspend judgment.


Really listen to the parent rather than worrying about what you’re going to say to them. Let parents know that you’re available for them and that you value any opinions or concerns they raise. Listening well is one way of showing you mean it. You are not expected to have ready answers to all of the questions that come up. It is far more important for you to listen carefully without passing judgment than to have all of the answers to questions you may be asked.






















Important points to keep in mind as you are supporting parents:

  • Stop what you’re doing and listen to parents when they’re talking to you.

  • Listen for needs and concerns as the parent tells their story

  • Ask questions if they’re unable to articulate their needs

  • Parent may just need to talk to someone

  • Try to understand the parent’s perspective, even if you disagree with what they’re saying. Put yourself in their shoes

  • Active Listening:

    • ​Paraphrase

    • Clarify

    • Provide Feedback

  • Listen with Empathy

  • Listen with Openness

  • Listen with Awareness

  • By listening you will have a deeper understanding of the problem and the potential paths for identifying appropriate referrals and support



Speaking to Clients

The way you communicate will either encourage or discourage partnership between you and your match . A partnership works best when messages are clear, specific and considerate of the other person’s feelings.  Here are some quick tips on communicating with clients.


  • Wait until the parent finishes speaking before you begin

  • Use “I” statements. This means talking about how you’re feeling about the situation rather than focusing on what you want parents to do about it or blaming parents

  • Ask open-ended questions to determine the client’s needs and to keep the conversation going. Open-ended questions give people a chance to expand on what they’re saying rather than just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’

  • Let the parent know you’re listening and interested by saying “Uh huh” occasionally

  • Practice reflective listening. Let parents finish talking and then summarize what they’ve said. “What I heard is…” Check that you’ve understood correctly.

  • Try to avoid using phrases like "you have to", "you must", or "you shouldn't". Instead use "these are options", "you may wish to", or "choices you have are"

  • The belief that we know better than someone else how to resolve their issues, or are somehow better equipped to do so, leads us to intervene or try to 'rescue' them in a way which disempowers them and inhibits their ability to resolve it themselves

  • Help the other family to be empowered by talking through their issues. Sometimes, just through talking and being heard, they come up with their own solutions to challenges



















Dealing with Concerns Parents Raise

Here are tips for dealing with concerns that parents raise:


  • Listen to parents’ concerns

  • Avoid responding with immediate explanations or justifications. It’s important that parents feel their concerns have been heard

  • Show an interest in the parent’s welfare as well as their child’s

  • Show enthusiasm at any attempt parents make to help with the problem

  • Brainstorm as many solutions as possible. Ask for parents’ opinions. Then jointly evaluate the pros and cons of each solution

  • Sometimes it might be hard to find a solution. You don’t need to find a solution every time. When problem-solving isn’t possible, you might be able to help by simply listening to parents. Notice the attitudes and feelings that parents express, and tell parents exactly what you heard them say in terms of feelings and attitudes



LAADDER - Helpful Reminder of Parent Engagement Strategies

The communication LAADDER provides a helpful reminder of strategies to use when engaging with another parent.


L    Language 

A    Ask Open-ended Questions

A    Affirm Feelings

   Don’t Change Subject

D    Don’t Interrupt

E     Emotions – keep yours in check

    Reflect and Respond



Empathy vs. Sympathy

Empathy and sympathy are opposite approaches to confronting the emotional challenges of others.


Sympathy is the act of showing you care about someone and the situation they are going through. You're sorry for them or pity them but you do not understand how they are feeling. Empathy can best be described as feeling with the person. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings to a degree. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions. That shared experience drives interpersonal connection.




Watch this very well-crafted 3-minute animated video to understand the difference between showing empathy and sympathy to others. It will help you understand more clearly.





















Fixing a client's problem is not often what is needed, nor is it necessarily your job or even within your ability to do so. Sharing a listening, caring ear is something most people can do. When we feel heard, cared about, and understood, we also feel loved, accepted, and as if we belong.


In I Thought it Was Just Me (But It Isn't) (2008), the film's narrator Dr. Brene Brown, references nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman's four attributes of empathy:

  • To be able to see the world as others see it—This requires putting your own "stuff" aside to see the situation through a client's eyes

  • To be nonjudgmental—Judgement of another person's situation discounts the experience and is an attempt to protect ourselves from the pain of the situation

  • To understand another person’s feelings—We have to be in touch with our own feelings in order to understand someone else's. Again, this requires putting your own "stuff" aside to focus on the client

  • To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings—Rather than saying, "At least you..." or "It could be worse..." try, "I've been there, and that really hurts," or (to quote an example from Dr. Brown) "It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it.”


Dr. Brown explains that empathy is a skill that strengthens with practice and encourages people to both give and receive it often. By receiving empathy, not only do we understand how good it feels to be heard and accepted, we also come to better understand the strength and courage it takes to be vulnerable and share that need for empathy in the first place.


Sometimes listening and being there for another is the most powerful thing we can do for them.


Source: Psychology Today


Effective Listening and Learning
Speaking to Clients
Dealing with Concerns Parents Raise
Empathy vs. Sympathy
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