M Dialogue in Extension
Good morning. Have you got a minute to spare? Yes? Fine! I was very interested in the question you raised at the meeting this morning. You mentioned the importance of entering an extension dialogue and the preparation for such a conversation.
You know, I recently found a paper that also deals with this question. Have you got time to look through it with me and exchange a few ideas?
1. Conditions for Constructive Communication
- Because I am an individual,
- because I sometimes approach others with prejudices,
- because my approach to this subject has a personal bias,
- because, while I have time, I don't feel comfortable in the meeting place,
- because I am aware of a whole series of surrounding conditions,
- and because my discussion partner probably also enters the conversation with similar questions and feelings, it is best, to clear up the following points at the beginning:
- Is the discussion taking place at the right moment?
- Does the environment provide (un)favourable conditions?
- Is the discussion subject simple or difficult?
- To what extent am I (or is my partner) biased in the matter?
- To what extent am I (or is my partner) biased in my (his/her) role?
- How do we stand in relation to each other as partners in discussion?
In this way we can clear the air about the conditions which influence our discussion.
b) Clarify Expectations
Because I have very precise expectations of this discussion, of which I am fully aware (e.g. developing a basis for decision),
· because I am sure I have expectations of which I am not aware (e.g. to get my own way, to justify myself), and because my partner is in a similar situation, we both ought to
- be aware of our own and the other's expectations before the discussion starts or in the early stages of the conversation, and then take this into account;
- make our intentions clear so that we both know where we stand;
- clarify and recognize our roles in order to ensure that we discuss the subject on an equal footing.
c) Disruptive Factors have Priority
If our discussion does not proceed well, if it proves unproductive and we start to use ironic, aggressive or cynical forms of speaking, it is time for us
- to clarify the causes of the disruption and
d) What I, as a speaker, must aim for.
By making my contribution directly and openly, by laying my cards on the table and not trying any underhand trickery, I hope to
By expressing myself clearly and in an open way and making sure that my words and my tone of voice are both saying the same, I hope to
By avoiding a monologue, trying to make sure we both can air our views, listening carefully to the other and spending enough time on the conversation, I hope to communicate to my partner
e) What I, as a listener, must aim for
By listening carefully to what my partner says, letting him/her finish what s/he has to say, interposing brief remarks to make clear that I have understood him/her or asking a question when I need to, I want to
By accepting my partner's message and not instantly assessing, twisting or deliberately misinterpreting it, I want to
By assuming responsibility for my reactions and not allowing myself to be bulldozed during the conversation, I intend to
2. Directive or Non-directive Extension Dialogue?
There is a whole series of discussion techniques, from the non-directive (which is often judged inefficient and "psychologizing") right through to the directive or authoritarian (which, in turn, is judged "bulldozing" or "the giving of rash advice").
What seems most important to us is that the discussion technique used by the counsellor is in tune with his/her basic attitude; only then will the counsellor appear genuine and honest. Our subconscious generally guides us very reliably here and we just need to lend an inward ear, or be ourselves. Any deliberate steering of the conversation will be necessary only very rarely. Moreover, non-directive and directive phases alternate in almost all discussions.
3. Attitudes that Hinder Discussion
4. Helpful Questions that I Can ask Myself Before and During an Extension Dialogue
- What are my motives for participating as a counsellor in this extension dialogue? Why do I want to help in making changes?
- What qualifications do I, as a counsellor, have which could give the kind of support that seems necessary or which, in the course of the extension process, might prove necessary?
- What preparatory steps are needed to initiate and develop a counselling relationship?
- Where does the partner's difficulty seem to lie? Where does it come from? What makes it into a problem?
- What seem to be the partner's present or potential reasons for and against change?
- When do I, as counsellor, start taking the lead in the various stages of the discussion? How may I best adapt myself to the situation?
How can I promote my partner's ability to make continuous and creative changes?
5. Discussion-directing Techniques
It is a fact that, either consciously or unconsciously, we tend to steer discussions. There are various techniques which we can use to get discussions where we want them to go - by intensifying (eye contact, head-nodding and brief, affirmative remarks), summing up, mentioning practical examples or by questioning.
Although discussion-steering techniques can be useful and helpful, we do not want to go into more details about them here, but rather to draw the reader's attention to the existing literature or to encourage those who are interested to take part in a counseling course. The reason for this is that the techniques have to be learned slowly and integrated into one's own behavior during discussion. We do not believe that a single page of text can do more than provide the first step towards such training.
Finally, we should like to emphasize that the willingness to engage in discussion grows with the quality of the relationship between the discussion partners. Mutual confidence may be promoted but never replaced by refined discussion-steering techniques.
Don't just ask yourself, "What do I want to say?" but also, "What effect are my words having?"
6. A Motto for Dialogues in Extension
And remember :
Don't just ask yourself, "What do I want to say?", but also, "What effect are my words having ?"
7. Problem-Solving. Procedure in a Group
1. Decide on a practical case
· Each participant thinks of a practical case from his own experience.
2. Give a description of the case and make sure it is understood:
· The participant affected by the case describes it without being interrupted.
3. Reacting to the description:
· The listeners tell the narrator what they have understood and experienced during his description of the case both in relation to the content and the way in which the story was told.
The narrator then says to what extent he feels he has been understood or misunderstood.
4. Describing (defining) the problem:
· The listeners say where and how they see the problem in this case, each from their own point of view.
The narrator then states where and how he now sees the problem.
5. Solving the problem: offer, choice and test:
· The listeners adopt the narrator's definition of the problem. They seek suitable solutions and tell him about them.
· The narrator chooses one of the proposed solutions and thinks about what steps he will take next.
· By role-playing or discussion the narrator tests the solution with the counselling group.
6. What the listeners have learned:
· The listeners then talk about what each of them has learned for their own work, thinking about what they perceived and experienced (3), how they defined the problem (4) and the solutions they suggested to the problem (5).
Bausch, H.; 1985: Das Gruppenberatungsgesprach, Arbeitspapier SVEB, Zurich.
Burgi, A.; 1986: Kommunikationspsychologie, Arbeitspapier. (unpublished)
Antons, L.; 1976: Praxis der Gruppendynamik. Hogrefe-Verlag, Gottingen.
Harris, T.A.; 1973: Ich bin ok - Du bist ok; Einfuhrung in die Transaktionsanalyse. Rororo 6916, Hamburg.
Schulz von Thun, F.; 1981: Miteinander reden - Storungen und Klarungen. Rororo 7489, Hamburg.
Weber, W.; 1976: Wege zum helfenden Gesprach. Reinhardt-Verlag, Munchen.
Mucchielli, R.; 1972: Das Nicht-direktive Beratungsgesprach. Otto Muller Verlag, Salzburg.
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