LITTLE THINGS DO MEAN A LOT.
Dee Chadwick
22 Nov 2020
The third of my trio of re-visited and re-vamped blogs. It talks of our use of language both verbal and non-verbal. How we talk about things, and how we can endeavour to put a positive spin onto things to help us and ours to weather our current storm.

BEGINNING WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR

I tend to use a chuckle to lighten mistakes I make, the children I used to work with made and have always seen humour in many situations. My sense of humour can tend to run to the quirky, with me being known to see total hilarity in things others find only mildly amusing. Having said that, I rarely ‘lol’ at anything on Facebook - especially if assured that I will find it hilarious or that it’s the funniest thing ever. I readily laugh at myself – especially during self-isolation when there has been nobody else to chuckle at what I have done. For example, I was kneeling down, wiping the floor tiles and gathering up the pile of clothes I had just taken off. Clothes  which were soaking wet from my attempts at power hosing my yard. I came to stand back up – my knee locked, so I reached to the door for support. Sadly, it wasn’t properly closed, and swung open meaning that I ended up spread eagled across the dirty, wet pile clad in only my underwear. I had two choices – and fortunately chose to giggle at my very undignified mishap rather than berate myself.  I was just glad that nobody had seen, nobody was hurt and that I hadn’t squashed my cat in my spreading. Positivity had ruled – thank goodness.

The humour is frequently unintended. This was so with reference to the picture at the top of the blog. I decided that the world according to Facebook needed to know what I was up to.  Luckily, this doesn't happen too often as I am not a Facebook user who feels that everyone needs to know my every move including what I had for breakfast! I posted -' Been working hard, so need to get out into the garden - but need willies'!! That one letter typo put a whole different spin on my situation! I will not list the replies that came flinging back to me.  At least I had made people giggle - and in my eyes, giggles are always good.

I have to say that in this willie/wellie incident, I still claim it really was simply a typo that led to the error. Brain and fingers showing their usual marked lack of co-ordination.

Sometimes, it can be a slip of the tongue rather than the finger or the pen. My Mum was very good at coming up with the wrong word. When I reached the age of being able to understand what had happened and point it out to her, my Dad was delighted as Mum had always insisted that he was making it up. I recall one such slip when we were about to watch a variety programme on our very small, very black and white TV. Mum summoned Dad to come and watch as Joe Brown was coming on with his catarrh. (For those of you saying - WHO? - Google him!!) As he began to strum his instrument, rather than cough and splutter, we chuckled - it was a funny, totally unrealised slip. In our defence, I have to say that in those days, things, including humour, were much less sophisticated and involved far fewer swear words than most comedians seem to find essential these days. Oh, don't I sound like a grumpy old woman there!!

FREUDIAN SLIPS

Little things which are slips of the tongue or finger/pen are part of the concept of a Freudian slip which are said to reveal a conflict within the person resulting in a discrepancy between words spoken/meant to be spoken.  I, and many therapists, make use of these in our client sessions. I have to say though, that not all branches of therapy agree that there is such a thing, rather arguing that it is simply a slip of the tongue in all cases. I also have to say - in my defence that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and my previously mentioned slip was NOT a Freudian one!!

CLUES FROM BODY LANGUAGE

When listening, for most of us, it is actually body language rather than the words spoken which influences us most. This is the reason why public speakers are well honed in what they do when addressing an audience.  There is the all encompassing arms open wide gesture.  This is used in an attempt to include all present in a comment, to make them come across as all encompassing. There is the emphasis of points made using open hand gestures. This is perceived as being open and honest, rather than use of a pointed finger which is seen as quite threatening and domineering. Used appropriately, these are effective gestures, but I feel there seems to be a growing tendency for over-egging of this particular pudding with the gestures becoming a big distraction. 

As therapists, we are well versed in picking up non-verbal as well as verbal signals from our clients and identifying any conflict between these; this being another aspect of Freudian slips. The obvious ones are easy - an emphatic 'yes' being accompanied by a shake of the head, the raising of a hand to cover the mouth when it has been stated they are ready to talk about something bad. We recognise the signals, and where appropriate bring them to our client's attention. It is the more subtle ones that require active listening and careful monitoring of body language. Grist to the mill of therapy as it is so much more than the actual spoken words that we work with.

At times though, words take the leading role. In my on-going love of learning, and as part of my professional development, I was doing an online course. I had to watch a video of a supposedly 'expert' therapist during a session with a client. It lasted just under five minutes and during that time, said therapist replied to things her client had said with OK - 20 times! Now, the client was maybe so engrossed in her story that she was unaware of this, or just more accepting than I am. For me, it obviously took over as I was counting. Had I been sitting in the client's chair, I would have been tempted to say that she was annoying me, could she PLEASE find a variation on her theme - or something to that effect. It influenced me in a non-intended negative way but also led me to reflect on my own practice and listen to what I ​ say to my clients with greater attention.

I wonder if we are making use of different non-verbal communication when we are mask wearing. If we use a ‘social’ smile it won’t be seen behind the mask. However, a genuine smile, one that extends to include the eyes as well as the mouth, could well be picked up on, depending on the social distancing being observed. I know that if someone is helpful in stepping aside or waiting for me to pass in the supermarket, I automatically smile but also throw in a hand raise and a thank you too for good measure. All part of the COVID shuffle.

BACK TO THOSE WORDS...

as the language that we use can easily influence people to a greater level than we realise - and as the title states, little things do mean a lot and they can make a big difference.  I remember, from many years ago when I was doing a life saving course, being told never to say 'Don't panic!', instead, to tell the person in trouble to 'Keep calm'. I have since learnt that this is because, especially at times of stress, we do not actively hear all the words spoken, rather cue in to those deemed most important and vital to helping us.  So, in the case of 'don't panic' - the 'don't' becomes lost and the word focused on is 'panic' - and it is translated as - 'panic?' - 'Should I be panicking?' .. 'I'm panicking - help!!'. A downward spiral simply begun. Whereas with the 'keep calm' statement, the person focuses on the 'calm' - a positive word enabling them to avoid that spiral and maintain a state of equilibrium.

This is a message I pass on to dads supporting mums-to-be in my hypnobirthing classes. I encourage them to listen out for negative comments being made and spin them in a positive direction. For example, 'You are only 4 cms dilated' when said to a mum in labour can lead to a feeling of despondency, if she felt that she was much further along. However, the slight spin of these words to 'You are already 4 cms dilated' can avoid this, rather giving the mum a feeling of moving on in said labour. Back to that 'little things mean a lot'.

Freudian slips aside, what we say has the ability to help or to hurt others very quickly and very effectively. It is said – ‘I can forget what you said, I can forget what you did - but I cannot forget how you made me feel’. Very true, especially at these times when many may have more than their usual time to reflect on such things. I recently received a block of chocolate through the post along with a thank you card for having helped someone. I may forget the chocolate but the feeling of being appreciated, being thought of will not be forgotten. The same applies to messages that we give to ourselves – a good reason for me to have spread on those soggy clothes and giggled. It is remembered as a silly, funny thing that happened rather than me being an old biddy who got herself into an embarrassing pickle.

If you are getting yourself into a pickle and need someone to talk things through with – I am currently offering support by both phone and Skype. Socially distanced therapy, but effective all the same.

Do get in touch if I can be of help.

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