Mind your language

All the Chrysalis Online Courses involve aspects of effective communication. Of course, there are also a number of barriers to that effective communication.

These may be external, such as the physical setting, environmental factors, or the methods of contact. Some of them will be about cultural and personal aspects for either the client or coach/therapist. There might be a need to work with a range of disabilities, or specific emotional and behavioural needs.

But one of the main barriers to effective communication must surely be a use of language.

Perhaps it’s a case where English is a second language on either side. Or it might be a strong accent or dialect. Both coach/therapist and client may be English speakers but find a huge gap in understanding between them. I also teach English as Second Language so I am particular sensitive to this area of communication.

I once listened to someone for about 10 minutes talking about his love of role-playing. My mind was both listening to him and also thinking how good gestalt creative techniques would work with this sort of situation. Then I realised he was actually talking about playing video games!

But I don’t do video games, and I had already lost the plot at that point!

I grew up in an area of the country where my mother constantly called me “mardy”. Now, some of you will know what that means…..I have lived away from that area for a very good number of years and so the word went into my passive vocabulary since no-one I came into contact with used it in any way.

And then I moved across country and suddenly almost without exception everyone I talked to described him/herself as “mardy”. I felt quite a jolt inside the first time!

Dealing with these issues in everyday conversation is one thing, but imagine if your client in session went on about being mardy? Or used other dialect words you didn’t recognise? Or even had such a strong accent that you were not really quite sure what they just said? Would you ask? Would you ignore it? Would you try and deduce it from the context?

Language matters. Be aware of your own language. Be aware of jargon. Be aware of accents, dialects, local peculiarities and specific terminology.

There are also those phrases that creep in to our language almost unconsciously. Technical, work-related, and hugely irritating to those “not in the know”. I once worked with someone who used a particular phrase probably 20+ times in each conversation. It drove me to distraction.

Recently, I have heard the phrase “going forward” so many times within one particular setting that it automatically wants me to “go backwards”! – I’m a rebel at heart! Or perhaps just mardy…..

So mind your language!

I don’t know what to say…

It feels like some of my most recent Blogs have focused on how we respond to a client – what we say or don’t say as a therapist, and also on what a client expresses both in what they say and what they don’t say.

“I don’t know what to say” expresses exactly how I felt when I sat down to write this Blog.

I once worked with a therapist who used silence quite a lot. And I remember frequently saying, “Please say something….” His usual reply was “What do you want me to say?….”

That was going nowhere fast.

There have been many times when I have been with a client and have been really unsure about what to say. Sometimes, I have allowed the silence. Sometimes, I have said something to fill the silence which has deepened the process.   Sometimes I have filled the silence with words simply to fill the silence. Sometimes I have said something which hasn’t helped the process at all.

And sometimes, I have been brave enough to say, “I’m not sure what to say right now.”

That to me is a profound expression of the relationship between therapist and client. It’s real. It’s here and now. It’s reflecting the process of relationships outside, within that client-therapist relationship and within the therapeutic space.

It’s congruent.

It’s honest. It’s open. And it’s human.

But it’s an uncomfortable place to be, and we are usually much happier feeling we know the “right” words to say at that moment for the client. We think that what we say has to be “right” – we are desperate not to “get it wrong”.   We feel we have to do the work to get the client to a different place.

Actually I think therapy is at its deepest about being real in relationship. Being open in relationship. Being human in relationship. And through that, about enabling the client to experience that process in a different way. And reaching their own honesty, openness, reality and human-ness.

It’s a very powerful process.

But only if we allow it to be and only if we are willing to engage with it at that deepest level.

I don’t really know what else to say.

 

 

I don’t know what to say…

It feels like some of my most recent Blogs have focused on how we respond to a client – what we say or don’t say as a therapist, and also on what a client expresses both in what they say and what they don’t say.

“I don’t know what to say” expresses exactly how I felt when I sat down to write this Blog.

I once worked with a therapist who used silence quite a lot. And I remember frequently saying, “Please say something….” His usual reply was “What do you want me to say?….”

That was going nowhere fast.

There have been many times when I have been with a client and have been really unsure about what to say. Sometimes, I have allowed the silence. Sometimes, I have said something to fill the silence which has deepened the process.   Sometimes I have filled the silence with words simply to fill the silence. Sometimes I have said something which hasn’t helped the process at all.

And sometimes, I have been brave enough to say, “I’m not sure what to say right now.”

That to me is a profound expression of the relationship between therapist and client. It’s real. It’s here and now. It’s reflecting the process of relationships outside, within that client-therapist relationship and within the therapeutic space.

It’s congruent.

It’s honest. It’s open. And it’s human.

But it’s an uncomfortable place to be, and we are usually much happier feeling we know the “right” words to say at that moment for the client. We think that what we say has to be “right” – we are desperate not to “get it wrong”.   We feel we have to do the work to get the client to a different place.

Actually I think therapy is at its deepest about being real in relationship. Being open in relationship. Being human in relationship. And through that, about enabling the client to experience that process in a different way. And reaching their own honesty, openness, reality and human-ness.

It’s a very powerful process.

But only if we allow it to be and only if we are willing to engage with it at that deepest level.

I don’t really know what else to say.

 

Change Begins With Choice.

Any day we wish we can discipline ourselves to change it all. Any day we wish; we can open the book: start that new project or course, that will open our mind to new knowledge. Any day we wish; we can start a new activity. Any day we wish; we can start the process of life change. We can do it immediately, or next week, or next month, or next year.

We can also do nothing. We can pretend rather than perform. And if the idea of having to change ourselves makes us uncomfortable, we can remain as we are. We can choose rest over labour, entertainment over education, delusion over truth, and doubt over confidence. The choices are ours to make. But while we curse the effect, we continue to nourish the cause. As Shakespeare uniquely observed, “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.” We created our circumstances by our past choices. We have both the ability and the responsibility to make better choices beginning today. Those who are in search of the good life do not need more answers or more time to think things over to reach better conclusions. They need the truth. They need the whole truth. And they need nothing but the truth.

We cannot allow our errors in judgement, repeated every day, to lead us down the wrong path. We must keep coming back to those basics that make the biggest difference in how our life works out. And then we must make the very choices that will bring life, happiness and joy into our daily lives.

Here is one last piece of advise I read years ago for someone seeking and needing to make changes in their life – If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. You have the ability to totally transform every area in your life – and it all begins with your very own power of choice.

Heres To Your New Journey.

Remembering

One of the anxieties I often see expressed in student work is that of remembering the details of a client’s story. Who did what, when, how etc? And what was the partner’s, child’s, parent’s name?

What emerges may be a long list of events, situations, emotion, action and reaction that is difficult to hold on to. Sometimes, the story itself is not the focus.

What matters most is the feeling, the experience. The value of what is not said but profoundly expressed nonetheless.

So you forget a name or a detail. Use it to reflect on how and why it happened. Does it reflect some aspect of the relationship for the client? Does it inform you, as therapist, about your management of your own process with that particular client or that particular experience they are sharing? How might you use it to engage in that very real “here and now” moment with your client?

But even as a therapist, I am still only human. And a part of being human means that sometimes I forget.

I once used the wrong name for a client’s partner at least 3 times over the space of a couple of sessions. The client was counting. She pointed it out to me.

I acknowledged it and apologised.

And then I reflected that it wasn’t something I would usually do, certainly not repeatedly. So I shared that with the client. I reflected back to her that it felt as if I couldn’t quite place who he was for my client – who they were in relationship together.

Silence. My stomach had butterflies. This was going out on a limb.

Dropping the anger and annoyance, and with a deep sigh, she said she didn’t know him as a person anymore. He wasn’t the person he was at the start of their relationship. She didn’t know who he was. And she didn’t know how to relate to him anymore.

So then….. I brought it back to the relationship between myself and the client. I wondered (out loud) if she therefore stopped sharing herself with others, and with me, if she wasn’t sure who they were, how they feel, what they think….

The therapeutic process and relationship moved to a whole different level at that point.

A process of re-membering – putting someone back together again. Putting the relating back into relationship on all sides.

Be a therapist. But remember to stay human as well.

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