Observation skills

Attending to clients places you in a good position to observe them. The client will also be communicating non-verbally (their posture, gestures, voice, the way they are dressed, etc), which may, or may not, be consistent with what they are saying.

Observing clients will help you develop an understanding of them, enabling you to recognise and interpret clues and cues that they give.

You must be aware that certain postures or gestures do not necessarily have specific meanings, rather that they mean something you observe a piece of behaviour, the meaning and significance of which is available to the client. You need to look for consistent patterns of non-verbal behaviour and then register your intuitions about the meaning or significance. You should seek evidence from other aspects of the client’s behaviour that either support or contradict these intuitions.

When there is trust between you and the client, you may decide to share your intuitions with them. If this is done, you need to share them cautiously, as intuitions offered as ‘fact’ can often lead to resistance.

Non-verbal communication is dynamic, with you and the client reacting to, and feeding off each other’s non­-verbal cues, both consciously and unconsciously.

It is important that you develop cultural, as well as individual, empathy. This will help you to work well with clients from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds.