Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Back in the day, when I left journalism behind and started down the road of social services, I took classes and went through training to help people open up so I could show them the path to self-healing. Hahahahahahahaha. No, seriously. I remember this one workshop I attended (people in the social service field are big into workshops) on active listening...
The facilitator, an impossibly tall man with the sort of suntan that had to have been painted on, role modeled active listening techniques.
"Have a seat, please," he said, waving to a chair opposite him.
I had decided to volunteer for the roleplay. I sat, as I always do, crossing my legs, and leaning back a bit. He sat, crossing his legs and leaning back. He asked me a question about my relationship with my mother (I suppose that mother/son relationships are such fertile territory that it's a MUST in role plays).
"Well, sometimes we argue. I think she tends to be manipulative." I shifted. He shifted.
"So you feel your mother tends to be manipulative?"
"Yeah," I said, uncrossing my legs, he uncrossing his legs.
"And how do you feel about that?" he asked.
"It annoys me," I replied.
"So it annoys you?" he asked.
I looked around, wondering if there was an echo. He looked around. I leaned back again, he leaned back again. I had this horrible Marx brothers' moment. For those who aren't in the field, he was "Mirroring". That's where the therapist mirrors the body language of the client. Of course, one should never be too obvious or else the client will follow you to your car after work and kill you. I called him on his mirroring and he said:
"Does my mirroring bother you?"
"Yes, it does?"
"So, if I hear you correctly, you're distracted by me mirroring your body language."
Active listening: mirroring body language, responding to verbal cues, rephrasing responses for to allow the speaker to elaborate or clarify, showing empathy. In "Silence of the Lambs" this is why Miggs, the guy in the cell next to Lecter, killed himself.
The facilitator smiled with perfect teeth. Handsome man. He smelled of watermelon. I have no idea.
"Do you think this distraction, or your pointing out this distraction, is a way for you to avoid talking about your relationship with your mother?" he asked.
"I think it's a way for me to avoid killing you," I thought, but responded:
"So, you're asking me if I'm using my distraction as a way to avoid talking about my relationship with my mother?" I asked.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Yes, do you think you're avoiding talking about your mother?"
"Do you think I'm avoiding talking about my mother?"
And with that he ended the role play. I went back to my seat and decided to practice oregami for the rest of the afternoon.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 3:26 AM