Receive and then respond

Some of you may have heard me talk about “receive and then respond”, which has come from the work of Video Interaction Guidance.

Typically in interactions one person takes a turn, then (often with a lot of very subtle crossover) the other person takes the foreground turn. There is a lot of assumed shared meaning (the other person understood me before taking their turn), and if the interaction is not breaking down, you can assume that you’re both on the same page in the interaction.

When there are difficulties in communication, there may be difficulties with gaining a shared meaning. One person may express something and the other person may too, but the first person may not know that they’ve actually been heard or understood in the first place.

Receiving a person’s message is a way of trying to let someone know that they’ve been heard or understood. It can take different forms: repeating back part of the message in words, saying out loud what you think the person might have been trying to say (either through words or body language), or even showing a similar emotion state.

Receiving a person could serve different purposes. It might give the person the sense that they’ve been heard. It could serve to clarify whether you’re interpretation was right or not, and give space to the person to either confirm or clarify ( I’ve found this to be particularly useful with many people with autism). It might also give words or gestures to a person who might struggle with words.

The other day I had a profound sense of NOT being received. I was running a webinar. I talked to a camera for an hour and a half. There was not clear reception for me – no nodds of recognition, no smiles of affirmattion, no signals of confusion. Occasionally I would see a flicker of a typing icon next to someone’s name – I felt maybe someone would say they’re there, but nothing would come through (maybe their cat was walking on the keyboard?) It was very difficult to continue communicate in the absence of clear reception.

I wondered how this might relate to some people with communication difficulties. How often is someone saying I  see you’re they’re, I sense what you’re feeling, I hear what you’re saying. It’s all very well to look at someone from across a room (or over the internet) but unless the person gets a message in a way that is meaningful to them they will not feel heard, acknowledged or received.

Receive a person first – let them know they have been heard, apprehended, understood, and then, respond.

(ps. two days later I got excellent ratings from the audience 🙂 – that was a relief, and a motivator to not shy away from webinars)

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