What is Attuning?
The art of Attuning is the practice of maturing between individuals, verbally and non-verbally. The practice can occur in a professional setting, or in a conversation. It occurs as a result of compassionate empathy, and listening to understand. It follows no script or sequence of ‘steps’. It requires an iteration between individuals to openly and honestly share information non-judgmentally. In a professional setting, Attuning focuses on resolving conflicts, improving employee relations, and managing change.
Attuning and Professional Helping Relationships
In a professional helping relationship, such as therapy or counseling, Attuning is used by the professional to explore the feelings and needs that influence the behaviors and choices of the client. Although the outcome of new behaviors might be a goal with therapy, Attuning itself is the cornerstone of an in-depth understanding behind the choices. Without this understanding, professionals may recommend solutions that will miss the target.
The process of Attuning starts with exploring the feelings and needs of the other. Although the other may want to ‘tell the story’, the feelings and unmet needs are the important aspects to explore. In that sense, an understanding of which feelings are associated with which unmet needs is critical. A healthcare worker may love their work and hate the hospital. The unmet need may be ‘lack of respect’ or ‘lack of security’. Rather than continually retelling the story (re-traumatizing), the other is better served by seeing how their needs are not being met- that is ‘causing’ the feelings. By Attuning, the professional can better empathize with the other in the circumstances. The focus here is always about the client, and not about anything the client can not control. They can not change the policy or working conditions (feelings of helplessness). The client may have an unmet need of control. As the Attuning process moves along, the client will likely being to better understand how the unmet need shows up in other ways, too.
Sue may be making a good wage and have financial security (a ‘met’ need). She may spend a lot of time at work (a ‘met’ need for making a difference). She may be frustrated that her co-workers do not have the same commitment, and frustration at a lower level (unmet need for competence, as she has to cover for them to her boss). She may be having issues with her spouse and family due to the long hours at work (unmet needs of Love, Joy, and Relationship security). She will likely feel shame for her feelings, judgements, and behaviors as well. So where do you start? Sue comes to the sesson to process looking for another job, burnout at work, arguments with her partner, etc. Without Attuning, the professional might easily slide into a ‘pattern’ or ‘motive’ to work with Sue as she shares in each session about what she has control over… her core unmet need. Without Attuning, the professional must work much harder to help her see this key unmet need and the behaviors that result from it.