I've delivered about fifteen basic counselling courses over the last five years and they're my favourite courses to deliver. It's because of the transformation I see in people, and in such a short period of time. Individuals who once constantly butted in with their own stuff are able to put on hold their need to dominate conversations and interrupt with questions and advice. Other participants, who used to be 'miles away' and pretending to listen, are able to focus on the speaker's experience and listen with empathy and compassion.
Typically, participants begin by learning how to refrain - from interrupting, giving advice, offering 'fixes' or asking too many questions. They learn about mirroring and how to build rapport. Then comes the use of active listening skills - like paraphrasing, reflecting feelings and summarising. The aim is for learners to be fully present when listening and it's a challenge because out there in the 'real' world hardly anybody is really listening. One of the things my students always comment on is their realisation that their colleagues, friends and family do not listen.
So this month I've been assessing my latest two groups and as usual I've been deeply impressed by their use of skills. It makes me think that communication skills ought to be part of the National Curriculum or a module on every FE and HE course going. In my fantasy that would lead to better relationships and fewer crimes.