I can across a YouTube clip lately I thought I’d share (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM45JMTpkBU) which got me thinking about affective statements. Hopefully you’ve taken the time to see the clip by now. If you haven’t watched it this may not make a whole lot of sense until you do see it. So what are affective statements? Those of you who have done some basic training or reading into RP will know they are personal expressions of feelings in response to specific behaviours of others, good or bad (importantly here they can and should be used to respond to positive behaviours too). But what’s that got to do with a train full of people laughing (you see you really need to watch that clip)?
Here’s the thing. If you look at the word affective, you’ll see that it’s built from the word affect. Now I’ve been teaching RP since May and using it in my work in residential care for over two years and this didn’t really hit me until yesterday. I knew intellectually what an affective statement was, e.g. instead of saying to someone who’s banging a knife at the table “stop wrecking my head”, you say something like “when you hit that knife off the table like that, it’s quite frustrating, because I can’t concentrate on my dinner/cooking/homework/etc.” But how many times have you used such a statement as just a tool, said with the “head” to get someone to respond the way you want. We’ve all done it of course. What’s wrong with that I hear some of you ask? To be honest, nothing really. It probably will get the job done and it’s certainly a damn sight better that the first way of talking, which has a 90% chance of being returned with “well you were wrecking my head earlier when……….” or else having the person add the fork to the orchestra.
I know what you’re still thinking? Where do all the people on the train come into this? Let me explain. The people on the train are responding to each other’s affect, in this case a laugh. We know a laugh is contagious, as is a tear quite often, or fear or any of the nine innate affects. By contagious what we mean is our affects/emotions/central nervous system/call-it-what-you-like communicate directly with other people. It’s why we love babies and entertainers. We all know someone who just lights up the room when they come in. I worked with a guy once and he just had to enter the building and everyone would start smiling. He didn’t have to open his mouth even. That’s the power of affect and what makes us human. It’s also the reason why emotion will always trump logic in an argument. A person’s affect acts as an amplifier to what’s being said and felt by everyone around.
Now, to sum this up. If affective statements are really the communication of affect, how many of us actually communicate that affect with our body language and tone? Or do we just rattle off the words? The people on the train showed us that words aren’t even necessary to communicate affect. Equally we all know people who say something and we just feel that this doesn’t fit. The words don’t match the affect. It feels false. What if we intentionally combined both, i.e. if we are telling someone we are frustrated for example, put the affect back into the affective statement. Access frustration in your body, your body language, your tone of voice and communicate that appropriately. Also if we telling someone we were really happy when they won that race/drew that picture/cleaned their room, access happiness in your body, body language, tone of voice and communicate that with your words. Finally, if you are thinking of using the subway in New York, let me offer you a word of caution. Be careful as to which carriage you ride. Some say those people are still laughing to this day!!
My name is Joe Power and I am the restorative practice development officer in Limerick since May 2018. I first came to RP in 2016 when it was introduced to the residential centre where I also work. I thought I would start to write a little about my experiences in developing both my own understanding of RP, as well as my experiences in trying to spread RP across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it. Also please e-mail any thoughts/comments/stories you might have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.