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Mind The Gap How we deal with the gaps in communication.

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Presentation on theme: "Mind The Gap How we deal with the gaps in communication."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mind The Gap How we deal with the gaps in communication

2 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Introduction Ok, hi every one. We’re here today to talk about communication. This is such a wide subject, even if it’s just in relation to teaching so I thought it best to home in on just a small area, but it’s one that I think is very important, and by baring it in mind it can be helpful in other areas of life too. - Hopefully by this point Nina is congratulating me on coming up with an inviting appetizer and the rest of you are drooling with envy!

3 Mind The Gap Simon Smith What I’ve decided to title my talk today is “mind the gap”, now this isn’t going to be a guide to talking to your students over a public address system while they’re waiting for trains. No the gaps I have in mind are the type that occur within conversation and more generally in any communication between humans.

4 Mind the Gap By Simon Smith When I was a kid I was befriended by a man who was a right old git, but even old gits have something to offer, what he said to me was this “there are three sides to a conversation. When you speak, when the other person speaks and when you think about what’s been said and what may be said next”. So that’s one of the gaps we’ll be looking at, the gaps between speaking, the other areas include the process our mind uses to fill gaps in, and the third main one will be about how we can use spaces around something to help define what that thing is.

5 Mind The Gap Simon Smith This last one resembles an aspect known in art as “negative shapes”. I’m going to start with this latter concept as I can see that’s the one you’re all looking a bit confused about. Maybe if I could read your minds right now I’d hear a plethora of “what the …. is he talking about now!” That process of me looking at you and trying to deduct something from it is a prime example of the process of using negative shapes to work out what else might be going on. So let’s take a look at negative spaces.

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7 Negative spaces The actual concept of negative space may seem a new one but of course just like most of this stuff we’re learning, it’s not so much that the idea is new it’s just the labels that are. We all know that much of what happens in a conversation is based upon supposition. It’s often not what someone actually says it’s what we deduce from what they say. Using negative space is about the process of deduction within conversations. This may be clearer if we look at negative spaces in painting and drawing.

8 Mind The Gap Simon Smith By using negative shapes the onlooker can see the shape of the object without the object actually being drawn. It’s a suggested shape The technique of using negative shapes is a method of suggesting the shape of something by drawing shapes around it. This is a GAP

9 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Now we use this method in conversations far more often than most of us are aware. Much of our humour, for instance, is about creating an image of something through this process and then presenting a very different image instead, often one that has other significant meanings.

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11 We tend to use negative shapes in conversation when we find it hard to talk directly about the actual thing in question. Often people ask us questions such “what does this word mean” and we can’t come up with an exact definition. Even if we know a subject well explaining it in a way that a student can understand may be difficult because they are thick sorry I mean unable to understand the concepts that are needed to understand the thing first so using ideas that can define the shape of something might be more useful. For example someone might want to know what a village is

12 Mind The Gap Simon Smith They’ll say “What’s a village?” And we might say “Well it’s bigger than a hamlet but smaller than a town and much smaller than a city.” “Thanks” they’ll say gratefully “now I understand why people call me and my friends village people” So now I am going to ask one of you to define the meaning of the word “tepid” “So what does tepid mean?”

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14 One of the pitfalls of this technique is that we are often too eager to surround the object with so many negative shapes that we just confuse our student. It’s hard to find a balance but maybe it’s better to err on the side of less rather than more that way if the student needs more help they can ask, indeed we can always try and get them to feed back, and of course more often or not when they do it’ll come back in the form of negative shapes because if you find it hard to define something clearly they’re even less likely to be able to do so.

15 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Now before we move on I just want to clarify something, negative shapes are not the same as metaphors. A metaphor for a metaphor in this instance might be using a similar shape that can be held over where the object might be to give a sense of its form, maybe like a shadow.

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17 So now gap number two, Filling Gaps

18 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Filling Gaps When we are communicating with others our minds can think at around 800 words per minute, we can speak up to around 400 words per minute, we have multi layered conscious and unconscious minds, we are programmed to seek out certain things in life and to ignore other things. In other words a conversation is just the tip of the ice berg compared to the activity in our minds.

19 Mind The Gap Simon Smith In our dealings with reality we spend much of our time dealing with our own personal dreams, fantasies, fears and paranoia. We can not help but fill gaps, if we glimpse someone’s face we may well find that on a second look the face is very different to the image we thought we saw. We are so often at the mercy of gap filling tendencies that it’s no wonder that all of us spend a lot of our time checking and rechecking reality in an attempt to work out what’s real and what’s “padding”.

20 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Now at this point I imagine that many of you need me to give you more concrete examples of what I’m talking about, When I do that I’m doing what is known as “projective identification” I’m using my imagination to try to work out what’s going on in your minds, and for some of you I’ll be on the button and for others I won’t.

21 Mind The Gap Simon Smith So my first significant point about “gap filling” is that when we fill them we are often inaccurate. How often have you met someone who you’ve only been in contact with either by phone or email and thought “they don’t look anything like I imagined”? Believe me a lot of people have thought that when they’ve met me.

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24 Filling gaps partly involves a process which psycho- analysts call Transference. This is when we transfer expectations we have inside of us on to the outside world.

25 Mind The Gap Simon Smith In terms of our teaching both we and the students are involved in quite an intense version of this dynamic. The reason it’s so powerful is because there are echoes of many other relationships in the class room, and of course it is a power relationship in itself.

26 Mind The Gap Simon Smith So why am I talking about it?

27 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Well firstly once we become aware of how much gap filling is going on we can begin to see how little our students feelings about us are actually about us in reality and conversely we can begin to take on board how much we are projecting our feelings and expectations on to them.

28 Mind The Gap Simon Smith I partly wanted to bring this up today because I feel that this part of teaching is mainly ignored by the teacher training establishment. The relationship between the student and teacher is immeasurable so as a consequence it’s hardly dealt with.

29 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Can you tell who this is?

30 Mind The Gap Simon Smith The last gap is the gap between speaking in a conversation.

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32 In other words we are filling in the gaps with an imagined conversation which we just check against reality momentarily before reacting to see if it basically correlates with what we thought someone might say. The problem is that if we don’t do this we’ll be confronted by many long drawn out gaps where we have to think about what was said. This would have a very stifling effect on a conversation.

33 Mind The Gap Simon Smith There maybe times when we’re teaching when we are confronted by a conversation that doesn’t fit the script we were following, when this happens it is far too easy to react quickly when instead it might be more appropriate to create a time where thinking might take place.

34 Mind The Gap Simon Smith In other words it’s a good idea to be able to utilise having a “non communication device”, let’s call it “silence”, to enhance communication. Saying “I need time to think about this” may be better than just reacting.

35 Mind The Gap Simon Smith Saying “I need time to think about this” may be better than just reacting.

36 Mind The Gap Simon Smith We are nearing the next station So to sum up my talk on communication has been about the part gaps can play in communication We looked at how they can be used to define things through what they are not, just like negative shapes do in art. We looked at how we are prone to filling in gaps according to our own sense of reality, and how inaccurate at times that can be. And lastly I suggested the importance of silence as an opportunity for thinking things over

37 Mind The Gap Simon Smith So when a train of thought goes over a few points in order to enhance a connection between you and your students remember to: Mind the gap!

38 Mind The Gap Simon Smith The End © Simon Smith London 2004

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