Theories of communication - Communication cycle and SOLER

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Gerald Egan’s SOLER theory

Gerald Egan defines his SOLER theory as a part of his ‘skilled helper’ approach to counselling. It is a non-verbal listening process used in communication, and a key skill taught to counsellors as part of their training.

S: Sitting squarely to the person, preferably at a 5 O’clock position to avoid the possibility of staring. Sitting squarely to someone makes them feel like you are there with them and available to them. This is important as turning your body away from the person may lessen your degree of contact; however, it may be helpful to sit at a more angled position if sitting squarely to the person makes them feel threatened for any reason.

O:  Maintain an open position at all times. Crossing your arms or legs may appear as if you are being defensive to the other person, and is a sign of lessened involvement with the other person, whereas an open posture says that you are open and available to the other person and what they have to say.

L: Leaning in towards the client every now and again tells them you are interested in what they have to say, leaning back can mean the opposite. However, leaning too far forward may be seen as placing a demand on the client, and they may feel intimidated.

E: maintaining eye contact is another way of telling the person you are interested in them and you are with them, however eye contact is not the same as staring, so you must look away every so often so as not to stare. You must monitor the amount you look away though, as this could say something about your own level of comfort/discomfort.

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R: Sitting relaxed should, in turn, make the client feel relaxed. If you sit nervously and fidgety it will distract the client. Being relaxed also expressed feelings of comfort and helps put the client at ease.

Gerald Egan’s SOLER theory makes communication more effective for both the service user, and the practitioner using the method in many ways. For example, The SOLER theory should make the patient who has been through a traumatic situation and needs counselling feel more open towards the counsellor; as if they can speak without being judged and will be able to feel more positive ...

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