I seem to have spent the last couple of weeks dealing with various muddles, hurt feelings and frustrations. The common factor in this was that the initial communication was not face to face. Emails, texts, answer phone messages. These can all be very useful for say, sending existing documents or arranging meetings and in a hurried and pressured world where people feel short of time we can easily look for what it quickest. We want to respond to our young people in ways that they feel comfortable and accessible and they may seem constantly glued to their phones and only available digitally.
Those caring for and working with traumatised children know that this is very complex and emotionally filled work. It can at times feel overwhelming and isolating. So it is really important to connect up, share the task and seek others minds to help think things through. It might in these moments seem quick and easy to send of a text or an email, it might provide a sudden release of pent up emotion. There are though some serious difficulties in this. A famous study by Mehrabian (1972) suggested that 93% of communication was non-verbal. This is now seen as a bit simplistic but there is common agreement that the majority of meaning in any exchange is not about the words. The largest proportion of this is through facial expression, then there’s gesture, vocal tone, body language and so on and most importantly in such an emotionally rich world of caring for traumatised children, emotion cannot be set down on paper in a real and embodied way.
So the simple message of this blog is 'let’s talk’. Whether its finding ways to detach a child from their screen or asking someone round to discuss something you’re struggling with. Because when you fire of that email or receive one and feel bewildered by its meaning it’s because in written script you lose most of the meaning and muddles and frustrations ensue. It’s also a one sided conversation, when you write you are actually talking to yourself! If we really want to support the children and young people we care for and the carers who look after them we need to look for all the opportunities we can to talk to each other, phones are better than emails as you get the ‘paraliguistics’ of tone, pitch, pauses, loudness- you don’t need capital letters to shout, but face to face and might one even dare to say heart to heart is best.
And yes I am aware of the irony of this being a blog and full of words and nothing more. Please go to my website if you’d like to find my telephone number and actually speak to me!
Dr Jane Herd – Completed her Doctorate on Hard to Reach adolescents at the Tavistock and Portman and is the Founder of Orb8 which provides a range of services for hard to reach, traumatised and marginalised children and young people and the organisations, staff and carers who work with them firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.orb8.org/