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Principles of People Helping

Attitudes Defined
Attitudes are the established ways of responding to people and situations that we have learned, based on the beliefs, values and assumptions we hold. Attitudes become manifest through your behavior.
Attitude Drives Behavior
Attitudes drive behavior. Your body language is a result of your mental attitude. By choosing your attitude you get in that mood and send out a message that everyone understands, consciously or unconsciously.
Almost always, you have a choice as to what attitude to adopt. There is nothing in any normal work situation that dictates you must react one way or another. If you feel angry about something that happens, for instance, that’s how you choose to feel. Nothing in the event itself makes it absolutely necessary for you to feel that way. It is your choice. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you’ll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.
The Power of Positive Attitude
It is not what happens to you that counts. It is how you react to what happens to you, especially when you have unexpected problems of any kind. Choose to act positively and creatively.
Attending or being with the client, as a key worker, is important because it helps to establish a working relationship and trust between you and it improves the quality of your perceptiveness.
Your non–verbal behavior will signal the quality of your interest. Be relaxed, face them and lean slightly forward; adopt an open posture and maintain good eye contact. But don’t be rigid about the above. Remember, you are always communicating something, and you are present through what you say and do.
Active listening involves not only paying attention to the verbal messages but also being aware of the non-verbal behavior: tone of voice, facial expressions, posture etc. These non-verbal messages can deny or confuse, strengthen or emphasis the spoken communication.
What gets in the way of attending?
• Self pre-occupation
• Attraction to client or opposite
• Your physical condition
• Over-eagerness to help
• Similarity of problems; identification with client
• Differences–disagreements
• Prejudice
You need to be in touch with your own thoughts and feelings and aware of any unfinished business of your own so you can take these factors into account in your interaction with the client. Every counselor needs a counselor!

When I ask you to listen to you and me start giving advice
You have not done what I asked you to do
When I ask you to listen to me and you tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way
You are trampling on my feelings
When I ask you to listen to you and me feel you have to do something to solve the problem
You have failed me strange as that may seem
LISTEN all I asked was that you listen; not to talk or do
Just hear me Advice is cheap
25 cents will get you dear abbey in a newspaper
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless
But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel no matter how irrational, it may seem easier for me to quit trying to convince you and I can get about the business of understanding what’s behind this seemingly irrational feeling.
And when that is clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice
Feelings make sense and are respectable when we understand what is behind them
Perhaps why prayer works, sometimes for some people
Is because God is mute and doesn’t give advice or try to fix things
Those who care enough to just hear me. And if you want to talk wait a minute
For your turn and I will listen to you.


• I will first truly understand then evaluate
• I will not fill in the gaps with my ideas. I will listen to you not my improvements or my supporting data
• I will not assume that what I heard is what was truly said or what was really meant
• I will not permit my thoughts to stray or my attention to wander
• I will not close my mind to opposing thoughts, opposite truths or other views
• I will not permit my mind to rule my heart or my heart to rule my mind
• I will not interpret words except as they are interpreted by the speaker
• I will not use my listening time to prepare my response
• I will not be afraid to listen , to learn, to change or to grow
• I will respect your right to be equally heard and I will claim my right to be equally heard


Eye – Contact
Looking at someone when they talk lets them know that we are listening and interested. Obviously if we fix our eyes on someone continuously they will become uneasy and wonder why we are staring at them. Appropriate eye contact entails looking more when you are listening and less when you are speaking and it is probably the most important way of communicating one’s full and undivided attention. It can be achieved easily as follows:
• Focus your eyes on the other person, and gently shift your gaze from their face to another part of the body, such as gesturing hand or a tapping foot, back to the face and to the eyes. Occasionally moving your gaze away from the person will reduce the chances of staring and causing them to feel anxiety or suspicion. Let yourself be natural.
• Try not to look away from the talker for long periods. If you are distracted and turn your gaze to others or to noises in the environment, the other person may interpret this as lack of interest in them.

Non – verbal prompts.
These demonstrate listening without disturbing their train of thought and they thus encourage the person to continue speaking:
• Affirmative head nodding. These nods should be used sparingly and in conjunction with eye contact.
• Appropriate facial expression. Generally, your facial expressions should naturally reflect the mood of what is being said rather than your own reactions. Thus when someone is sharing something that hurts or worries them you reflect that concern. A frown is appropriate when you do not follow or understand the person’s point.
• Silence. The use of silence by the listener can communicate respect and patience. This is more than just not interrupting. Allowing time for natural pauses, reflecting and finding the right words will change the rhythm of the exchange from the competitive ping–pong of normal conversation to a more open accepting process. However, take care to avoid this becoming a battle of wills– i.e., who will crack first!
Body Posture
Relaxing your body will usually encourage the other person to relax also. When your body shows openness and receptivity the other person is more likely to talk freely and be less defensive. You can achieve open body posture by:
• Sitting at a slight angle to the other person. Facing them squarely may be experienced as too confronting, initially at any rate.
• Uncrossing your arms and legs. Crossed arms, like a desk, can communicate superiority or defensiveness as well as serving as a barrier.
• Leaning slightly forward to communicate interest. Slouching or leaning back can indicate boredom, fatigue or lack of interest.

Verbal Prompts.
Often, in the early stages, talkers will range over numerous topics. Occasionally the listener’s indirect responses have encouraged this wandering. When the listener thinks that the other person has explored their main areas of concern, it may be appropriate to find one topic that could be elaborate productively. A summary may be sufficient to collect the thoughts at this stage but if further action is needed.
Focusing will help the talker home in on the main issues. Examples of focusing are: which is the most important thing we have talked about in the last ten minutes? or What were your feelings as we were talking? or Can you choose one word to describe the last five minutes talk? Listeners should use their own feelings of confusion or diffusion as a guide to decide when to focus.
Having identified the main topic, the listener needs to encourage the other person to open up and examine their thoughts and feelings. The following techniques will help the person to continue communicating verbally.
Use verbal expressions such as Um –hum, Ye-e-s, Go on, I see, Can you tell me some more about that? And employ a well-regulated voice. Such a tone and pattern are reassuring and comforting.
Repeat key words. For example if the person says, I don’t know, I guess I’m just confused, the listener repeats the word confused? This response prompts the other person to say more without using a long question, which might break the other person’s train of thought. Paraphrasing, i.e. reflecting – back the other person’s thoughts in your own words will have similar effect.
Ask open questions such How do you feel about this?, Can you give an example of that? and What does that mean to you? These encourage the other person to expand on the topic and clarify the experience or feeling.

Open-ended Questions
Open-ended questions are questions that encourage people to talk about
whatever is important to them. They help to establish rapport, gather
information, and increase understanding. They are the opposite of closed-ended questions that typically require a simple brief response such “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions invite others to “tell their story” in their own words. They do not lead people in a specific direction. Open-ended questions should be used frequently, though not exclusively, in conversation. When asking open-ended questions one must be ready and willing to listen to the response. To illustrate closed-ended vs. open-ended questions, consider the following examples. The topic is the same in both questions, but the responses likely will be very different

• Did you have a good relationship with your parents? (closed-ended)
• Tell me about your relationship with your parents. (open-ended)

Examples of open-ended questions: Who what where how
• How can I be of help?
• Would you tell me more about ___?
• Could you help me understand ___?
• What are the good things and the less good things about ___?
• What do you think you will lose if you give up ___?
• What have you tried before?


It requires skill to use silence appropriately, for silence can speak louder than words. There are many kinds of silences, awkward silence, passionate silence, angry silence, mournful silence, fearful silence, nervous silence, reverie, silence of anticipation, etc. Only peaceful silence is neutral, and that really serves as a way for innermost thoughts/feelings to arise.
You have to be in touch with your feelings to be able to develop a skillful use of silence

To show empathy is to identify with another’s feelings. It is to emotionally put yourself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is directly dependent on your ability to feel your own feelings and identify them.

If you have never felt a certain feeling, it will be hard for you to understand how another person is feeling. This holds equally true for pleasure and pain. If, for example, you have never put your hand in a flame, you will not know the pain of fire. If you have not experienced sexual passion, you will not understand its power. Similarly, if you have never felt rebellious or defiant, you will not understand those feelings. Reading about a feeling and intellectually knowing about it is very different than actually experiencing it for yourself.
For this process to work, the first step is that we must be able to experience our own emotions. This means we must be open to them and not distract ourselves from them or try to numb ourselves from our feelings through drugs, alcohol, etc.
Next, we need to become aware of what we are actually feeling — to acknowledge, identify, and accept our feelings. Only then can we empathize with others. That is one reason it is important to work on your own emotional awareness and sensitivity– in other words, to be “in touch with” your feelings. — and to help children stay in touch with their feelings.
Are You Making Judgments… or Being Judgmental?
Judgmental, prejudiced and biased individuals make far-reaching pronouncements based on limited information. We all know such people. Their false and extreme generalizations give them away. “Anyone who uses curse words is obviously stupid and uneducated!” “Rock-and-roll fans don’t know the first thing about music!” “People who don’t regularly attend religious services are heathens!”
Most people realize that being judgmental is an unattractive trait. If you look around, you’ll find that most judgmental people are disliked and avoided. The answer to Mom’s reproach, “Why don’t you call your mother more often?” if truthful would probably be, “Because you’re judgmental and tend to pick on me, so it’s unpleasant to talk to you.” When people stop being judgmental, they often discover a level of personal happiness that had eluded them.
Yet none of us can help forming opinions of other people. So how does judgmental thinking differ from making judgments? Judgmental people state their views and observations in authoritative terms; they decree what is right and wrong, what should and should not be, what is good or bad. Making a simple judgment, however, does not carry these ominous overtones. “Billy has poor table manners” is a judgment. The judgmental person would add something, such as “Therefore, he’s a slob who was raised by cavemen!”
We make judgments constantly. “He’s good-looking.” “She dresses well.” “He seems to lack a good sense of humor.” “She’s overweight.”
In forming opinions or making judgments, there is no moral overtone, no further conclusions are drawn, no inferences are made about the person’s character. We just have the observation or the perception.
As soon as we add “therefore” to the observation, we are likely to be judgmental. “He talks very slowly,” is an observation, “therefore, he must be stupid” is a judgmental conclusion.
If you look out for your own “therefores” you are less likely to sit in judgment over your fellow human beings, which will be all to the good for you and them

• Is being aware to yourself, your authentic feelings, your motivations and your truth
• Entails risk; you cannot be sure how you will be received
• Is trust and vulnerability
• Occurs in dialogue or silence
• Always listens deeply
• Is in “being” not “doing”
• Is in caring not just curing
• Is in the NOW rather than dwelling on the past or future
• Accepts what is
• Is a means of grace and healing

The stages of change are:
Precontemplation (Not yet acknowledging that there is a problem behavior that needs to be changed)
1. Help the person to develop a reason for changing
2. Validate the person’s experience
3. Encourage further self-exploration
4. Leave the door open for future conversations
Contemplation (Acknowledging that there is a problem but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change)
1. Validate the patient’s experience:
“I’m hearing that you are thinking about making a change but you’re definitely not ready to take action right now.”
2. Acknowledge patient’s control of the decision:
“I don’t want to preach to you; I know that you’re an adult and you will be the one to decide if and when you are ready to do something.”
3. Clarify patient’s perceptions of the pros and cons of the change:
“Using this worksheet, what is one benefit of making a change? What is one drawback of change?”
4. Encourage further self-exploration:
“These questions are very important to beginning a successful change. Would you be willing to finish this at home and talk to me about it at our next visit?”
5. Restate your position that it is up to them:
“It’s totally up to you to decide if this is right for you right now. Whatever you choose, I’m here to support you.”
6. Leave the door open for moving to preparation:
“After talking about this, and doing the exercise, if you feel you would like to make some changes, the next step won’t be jumping into action – we can begin with some preparation work.”
 Preparation/Determination (Getting ready to change)
1. Praise the decision to change behavior:
“It’s great that you feel good about your decision to change; you are doing something important to decrease your risk for disease (or….).”
2. Prioritize behavior change opportunities:
“Looking at your behavior, I think the biggest benefits would come from…. What do you think?”
3. Identify and assist in problem solving regarding potential obstacles:
“Have you ever attempted this before? What was helpful? What kinds of problems would you expect in making those changes now? How do you think you could deal with them?”
4. Encourage small, initial steps:
“So, the initial goal is to try …..”
5. Assist patient in identifying social support:
“Which family members or friends could support you as you make this change? How could they support you? Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Action/Willpower (Changing behavior)
1. Practicing new behavior for 3-6 months
2. Focus on restructuring cues and social support
3. Bolster self-efficacy for dealing with obstacles
4. Combat feelings of loss and reiterate long-term benefits
Maintenance (Maintaining the behavior change)
1. Continued commitment to sustaining new behavior 6 months to 5 years
2. Plan for follow-up support
3. Reinforce internal rewards
4. Discuss coping with relapse
Relapse (Returning to older behaviors and abandoning the new changes) many people benefit from learning the difference between a lapse and a total relapse, (a complete collapse back into the old way). Being prepared to recognize a lapse and take immediate action can save the effort.
1. Resumption of old behaviors: “Fall from grace”
2. Evaluate trigger for relapse
3. Reassess motivation and barriers
4. Plan stronger coping strategies

Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model
Stage of Change
Not currently considering change: “Ignorance is bliss” Validate lack of readiness
Clarify: decision is theirs
Encourage re-evaluation of current behavior
Encourage self-exploration, not action
Explain and personalize the risk

Ambivalent about change: “Sitting on the fence”
Not considering change within the next month Validate lack of readiness
Clarify: decision is theirs
Encourage evaluation of pros and cons of behavior change
Identify and promote new, positive outcome expectations
Preparation Some experience with change and are trying to change: “Testing the waters”
Planning to act within 1month Identify and assist in problem solving re: obstacles
Help patient identify social support
Verify that patient has underlying skills for behavior change
Encourage small initial steps

Practicing new behavior for 3-6 months Focus on restructuring cues and social support
Bolster self-efficacy for dealing with obstacles
Combat feelings of loss and reiterate long-term benefits

Continued commitment to sustaining new behavior
Post-6 months to 5 years Plan for follow-up support
Reinforce internal rewards
Discuss coping with relapse

Resumption of old behaviors: “Fall from grace” Evaluate trigger for relapse
Reassess motivation and barriers
Plan stronger coping strategies