Here's the scenario. I'm in session with a couple and we start an intervention that requires stating things from a personal perspective for one person and listening and summarizing for the other (without giving their interpretation or jumping into why). Easy peasy, right?
Here's another scenario. I'm doing supervision with students and I say, "Focus more on (counseling microskill) with client x" and students says, "I do that!" So we watch their recorded session and they find out what I've suspected the whole time - there's little evidence that they're doing the thing they thought they were doing (say that five times fast!).
Are you getting my point, yet?
It's simple, really.
My point is that knowing something is absolutely not the same thing as doing it.
Theory vs. Application
If I were to tell you to go watch a breakdancing video (seriously, they're pretty amazing) and then do what they're doing on the screen, you'd probably give me a look like I'm an idiot. Rightfully so. Most people can't do the things that breakdancers can.
Or, even better, if I were to say, "Hey, friend, go watch Bobby Fischer play a game of chess and then see if you can beat him!" Again, you'd look at me like I was an idiot. Because, at some level, you know you can't beat him by not practicing the game on your own. Realistically, the majority of the population can't beat him because, I mean, he was one of the greats.
Why, then, if I say, "Hey, we're going to adopt a new way of communicating with each other," am I frequently met with, "I already know how to do that?" You'd be shocked at how many people think they know how to do it and then, when the time comes to actually do it, have to think really hard about how to say something, about setting aside their own agenda, and about being fully present for what their partner is saying.
It's not a given skill to have - it's learned and gets better with practice.
I also don't know why people think it's just a natural thing they can do (some can, but most cannot), but my speculation is that it's just 'talking' and 'listening.' Allegedly, those things are 'easy' to do.
Knowing something is one thing. Actually being able to successfully do it? That's something else entirely.
And don't get me wrong - I'm not removed from this. I mess up all the time, in fact (just ask my husband). I say things wrong, I claim to be listening when I'm not, and I assume that I'm doing the thing I set out to do.
Doing things wrong isn't the issue. The issue is when we do it wrong, but think we're doing it right, and then make it seem like the other person is the one with the problem (because we haven't messed anything up!!). This ties back in with owning your stuff, actually.
I'm writing this because I've been thinking about students and clients a lot lately (all the time, really), and I'm coming to find that people (myself included, at times) often think they're done when, in fact, they've just started.
Long story short is this.
We get better at things that a) we practice, and b) we get feedback on. The feedback piece is to actually make sure we're doing the thing we set out to do. We can't know how we're coming across unless we're recording ourselves or unless we have an outside perspective (*coughcough:: therapist::coughcough*) who's relaying back to us how we're coming across. OR giving us language that we don't have the experience to use.
So, my point with this? You might think you're done, or that you've arrived, or that you're stellar at the thing you don't frequently practice but know all about, but you're probably not. Be open to that and embrace learning skills in a new way and with feedback (from a loving or supportive source).
And I'm out.
Be well, my friends!