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.