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.