Does practice make perfect?

Carl Rogers noted that about 80%of all messages sent could be so categorized, whereas about 20% seemed incidental or of no importance. He concluded that, if any one person used more than 40% of the responses, he/she would be so stereotyped. The overuse, or under use of the responses, seems to interfere with helping the sender and with building a relationship. Which is most appropriate? Under what conditions? You may wish to explore this in the group.[1],[2]

A rule of thumb is found in the acronym U. P. S. I. E. The understanding response is most likely to be very helpful in the initial stages of a relationship and encourages self-disclosure. Probing may be helpful in increasing self-disclosure if questions asked are open-ended, e.g., How?, and What? Why questions tend to decrease self-disclosure as they foster excuses, rationalizations, and projections. Support is particularly helpful when someone seems not to have enough energy, or courage to handle situations well. Interpretations must be used cautiously, but may be helpful in confrontations. Evaluations are best reserved for value clarifications and in relationships of some duration.

The only way to really develop any skill is through practice, either mental imagery, or in action. The following fishbowl technique is designed to familiarize you with the U. P. S .I. E. i.e., understanding, probing, support, interpretative, and evaluative listening responses and to give you practice in using them. Part of the fun in developing any skill is to experience the different style each of us uses and to note the tremendous variety of our responses.

Fish Bowl Technique

Form a group of two, or more, or join in a chat room which is available, and  practice using the reposes. Each member role plays his/her respective listening part. Observers give feedback to role players and tabulate the percentage of each response. Time yourself for about 15 minutes and record ,or have an observer, record the type of listening response used during the time. Tally the total number of verbal responses used. Now indicate which type of responses were most frequently used and which were least.  Were any responses used more than 40%?   What did you learn from this exercise? Use the following table to assist you in recording the responses.

    Type of listening responses                      Number of responses in timed period











1.Don E. Hamachek, Encounter with Others: Interpersonal Relationships and You, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.1982, p.212,
2. David W. Johnson,
 Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self Actualization Boston: Allyn and Bacon ,2003,p.234

Copyright 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.