Behaviour Conversation Analysis Meaning of Words

Hello and Hello are different

We all have bits of talk that we have picked up from listening to the people around us. They are so familiar to us that we don’t have to think about them or their meaning. A lot of this phatic talk is to do with greetings and showing that you are pleased to meet people. If someone we know well fails to reply we at once ask ourselves “Have I done something to upset her or didn’t she hear me?” Which shows just how important greetings are. The tone of voice also matters.

A long time ago when I was at university our Spanish department room was very small and right at the top of a wide spiral staircase. One day, when it was time for my years’ lectures, a steady stream of us made our way up and passed another group coming down rather faster. I was saying “Hello” over and over again. When we got to the top of the stairs the girl just behind spoke to me.

“It’s easy to see who you like and who you don’t” she said. “What do you mean?” I replied. She laughed. “Every one of your “Hellos” was different. They varied from just above a whisper to a hearty laughing tone.

I learned two things. One, that I was not aware of this at all. I have always formed strong feelings for or against the people I meet but I had never realised how much I give away by the warmth or not of my greeting. The second thing I learned was that my friend was an acute observer of what was going on around her, especially people she liked. This made her one of a very small group of my friends. I also notice such minute things but I didn’t notice them in myself.

People who are sensitive to fine details are usually those who turn into writers. Without realising it they accumulate a wealth of small events with people and nature and they never forget them. When I began to work as a psychotherapist I had no difficulty at all in getting into a state of rapport with my clients. I thought that was normal in my profession. Other people who had trained with me began to ring me up after a few months to ask me how I was getting on. “Fine!” I said, They were amazed because they found it difficult to talk to complete strangers. Once again I realised that something I took for granted was quite rare. By the same token, when I first bought a computer when I was studying for my PhD, I found it very difficult indeed. My two sons and two grandsons kept telling me how easy it was much to my chagrin. I am now on my fourth computer and at last I have mastered all the basics I need for my work but I still quail when something goes wrong and I feel helpless.

I came to the conclusion that this sort of thing is part of why people do not get on together. Yet it can be overcome easily when both parties accept the simple fact that no two people are alike in everything. Like a lot of things that appear obvious, many people won’t accept them.

Conversation Analysis How To Use Words

Is Talking Good For You?

We take talking for granted because, most of the time, it seems to flow easily from our lips without our having to think about it. In fact there is a lot going on in conversation of which we are not aware. Thr first person to realise that the grammar of conversation is worth exploring was a genius called Harvey Sacks, the discovery of Conversation analysis.

Jean Pain, a linguist and psychotherapist in private practice, has just published a book “Not Just Talking” inspired by Sacks’ work. She wanted to know what goes on in the therapeutic dialogue. This book is not only for therapists. She wants to demonstrate to all those people who think psychotherapy is “Just Talking” that the power of the therapeutic dialogue, when it is used to full effect, has been seriously underrated. Moreover, all who want to improve their own ways of talking with others, will find this book very useful.

Well versed in the study of the best writers in English Literature and a keen observer of people and their actions, Jean realised that what she was really doing with her clients was teaching them to think for themselves by setting a good example. She went back to two universities, Manchester Metropolitan for her M.A. and Brunel for her PhD. Both taught Conversation Analysis.

Jean’s research is based on transcriptions from live therapy talks with her clients. The first step is gaining the trust of clients, an art in itself. Then clients begin to talk. When we have problems we tend to tell the same story in the same way to others. The words we use do not vary much. Little phrases like “I don’t know” can be cover-ups for “I don’t want to tell you” or “I’m scared, help me!” Jean listened carefully and whenever clients used ambivalent words and phrases, she encouraged them to express themselves in a more precise way. By changing the way they talked clients began to look at their problems from a clearer angle.

It happened that when clients were willing and able to benefit from Jean’s approach they began to work things out for themselves in a more helpful way. She realised that what clients say is less important then why and how they say it. Strong emotions, common to all of us when we are confused and unhappy, get in the way of clear thinking. Once we gain control over our powerful feelings and stop going round in circles trying to find answers, only then can we begin to think straight.

Jean’s method can be helpful for all who have difficulties getting on with themselves and other people. Much blaming occurs when people refuse to accept that most of their troubles arise from their attitudes to life.

This book is the foundation of Jean’s research discoveries. She continues to research a variety of situations such as “Talking with Children” and “Talking in close relationships”.They are all relevant for everyone who gets into difficulties in conversations and does not know why.

Conversation Analysis

Conversation Analysis

We talk to each other without being aware of what we are doing. As a result what goes on in conversations can be a major cause of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and above all a lack of mutually useful cooperation. This is reflected in the fact that despite all the technological advantages of our times, more and more people are dissatisfied with their lives and seek psychological help to find out why.

Dr Pain is the first practising psychotherapist to have completed an analysis of the ongoing and continuously changing structure of therapeutic talk (she was awarded a PhD in Conversation Analysis by Brunel University in 2003). She found that the major factor for clients is that they learn to make changes in their thinking, through learning to use conversation more effectively.

Moreover, those facets of therapy talk, which is very different from everyday talk, can be applied to other domains such as family relationships, teaching and business. The key to effective cooperation, as distinct from one person trying to coerce another, is the establishment of a situation where both participants use conversation to learn from each other in an ongoing creative way.

Effective therapists do not give advice or impose their own preconceived ideas on another person. What happens is each client is respected as a unique individual, and helped to think for themselves so that they develop the ability to discover what they are doing that causes problems and work out for themselves how they can make changes. For this to happen, therapists need to have both professional training plus such skills as the ability to listen and to know when to intervene.

Jean Pain realised that all conversation could be improved by the taking on board of some of the devices that work in a therapy situation as revealed in her research. The aim of our work is to help people, whoever they are, to gain awareness of what they do in talk that they do not know they are doing. Only then can they become aware of what changes they need to make.

Once these principles have been learned, we can use them to change both the way we talk to others and how we respond to what others say to us. We can then achieve mutually satisfying results in our interchanges with others in whatever situation we find ourselves, whether it be in close personal relationships, in business, in teaching, or in the joint exploration of problems.

There is, of course, no universal panacea. What matters is that we can develop a more open-minded attitude towards each other’s different ideas that could lead to an improvement in the nature of cooperation from an activity where, more often than not, two or more people are struggling to get the best deal for themselves individually, to one from which all participants can benefit.