Facilitating communication over virtual platforms is a major adjustment from our normal experience. However, by leveraging technology correctly, we can still obtain valuable non-verbal communication. Additionally, Lisa details how when set up correctly, we can center and stay connected to ourselves, and fill the role of the external regulator, which will have a positive impact on those around us.
Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
Lisa Dion is an international teacher, creator of Synergetic Play Therapy, founder and President of the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute, and host of the Lessons from the Playroom podcast. She is the 2015 recipient of the Association for Play Therapy’s Professional Education and Training Award of Excellence and the author of Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity. Lisa is also a Master Certified Demartini Method Facilitator providing education and support to individuals and organizations worldwide.
Ludmila Golovine is President/CEO of MasterWord Services, Inc., a global language solutions company. As a language professional, Golovine knows first-hand how interpreting, especially in the healthcare, social services, education, and legal arenas, may present challenges such as stress, anxiety, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. For the past 10 years, she has applied her skills as a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and a Trained Demartini Method Facilitator to tirelessly help promote health and wellness to those in the language services industry.
Thank you for connecting Lisa. The question that we have today is while many interpreters have been working remotely and are very experienced in working there over the phone and video remote platforms a lot of in-person interpreters today asked to provide services over remote platforms as well. This adds additional stress, additional anxiety, creates additional challenges, so what advice do you have for those of us who are new to the situation and those of us who are experienced with the situation?
One of the big challenges that many people are having to adjust to with the coronavirus is moving from an in-person experience when they’re working with someone to having to facilitate communication through a virtual platform, such as right now through through a computer. And it can be a little bit of a jarring adjustment because we aren’t able to rely quite on as many of the nonverbal cues that we would normally just take for granted. And so I want to talk a little bit about how can we make this process a little bit more fluid and then also what do we need to do to regulate while we are on the other end of a computer. Or suppose it could also be a phone but likely the computer.
So the first thing I just want you to be aware of is as I’m over here talking that you’re still very much aware of many of my nonverbals, you can see my hands, you can see my face. What you don’t have access to, obviously is my lower half, but you actually have the most important part of my nonverbal experience. And so the first thing is, is that if you’re having to facilitate, make sure that you get some support where the camera is set up in such a way where you can really see people from the from, the waist up to the best of your ability. That will give you the most amount of access to the information that, that will allow you to know what’s happening for people: Do you need to adjust?, are people getting overwhelmed?, do you need to pause? Those things that again we may naturally take for granted when someone’s in front of us and we can just attune to them and get a sense of how to, how to respond and how to adjust. So just know that this is still very, very much available. My personal experience facilitating through a virtual platform such as this is that what it really does is it requires just a different level of attention and a different level of focus. So we have to be a little bit more present, a little bit more alert, a little bit more mindful, and it’s interesting because we might think yet but we have to do that anyway when someone’s in person, but you actually have to do it even a little bit more when you’re through a virtual platform, it’s like you have to almost try a little bit harder, which can actually lead to a whole other level of exhaustion in the nervous system because you’re having to hold and be be attentive in a hole in a whole new way. So that’s one thing that I’ll mention.
The other is is that even though you’re on the other side of the camera, you’re still feeling the activation of being a part of the conversation. So when the individuals that you are helping be a bridge for in communication, when when one escalates or someone, it starts to feel anxious or sadness comes in, you’re still going to feel it, even though you are on a virtual platform, which means that your nervous system is still going to be affected in the conversation, and with that, you’re still being asked to be able to translate, which requires you to be able to still access your prefrontal cortex. So just because we’re moving from an in-person experience to a virtual platform doesn’t mean that we can stop regulating. In fact, because of the first thing that I said about how we need to have maybe even be a little bit more attentive., we actually may need to regulate even more. So what that means is that while you’re facilitating, [it’s] really important that you become aware of your breathing patterns, pause when you need to, take deep breaths, pace yourself. And by the way, your ability to pace yourself will also help pace the people that are also looking at you, or watching you, or listening to you in the process, too. So you can really set the stage for helping regulate everybody in the discussion. Have something like a glass of cold water, so sipping cold water or drinking cold water actually helps regulate and helps the nervous system. One of my favorite ones is, you know, feel your feet on the ground. Maybe even if you need to every once in a while. So right now I know you can’t see what’s happening. Probably get a sense that my arms were moving. I’m just gently pushing on my legs and I’m grounding myself. So right now I’m actually taking my feet and I’m just moving my feet back and forth like this. So just noticed. There’s these subtle ways I can regulate my body where I don’t become a distraction to the conversation. But I’m very much taking care of myself right now. Maybe I shift positions in my chair. So maybe I’m, I’m here for a minute and then, you know, I start to feel some activation in my body and then, you know, maybe I shift positions this way, these, these subtle things, but really profound things that we can do to stay connected to ourselves in the midst of the activation or the fear or the challenge or the stress of having to work through a different platform are absolutely essential. The more that you’re able to manage and regulate and stay connected to yourself in all this activation will give you access to your prefrontal cortex. The more you become stressed out, overwhelmed, starting to really feel and merge with the energy in the activation of the people that you’re trying to, to facilitate, the more you actually go down into your reptilian brain and the more we go under a reptilian brain, we actually lose our ability for words. We lose our ability to think clearly. And what your, people that you’re trying to help need so much from you is for you to be the one in the conversation that is here because they’re all here. So your role as becoming, we’re gonna call it the external regulator, is so key in this situation, and you can absolutely still do it even through a virtual platform. But what it means is, you send to yourself, you stay connected to yourself, work on being present, work on being mindful and alert, you know, do things to maintain connection with your body. Ground yourself. Deep, deep, deep breaths. These are the things that are going to help you with this platform.
The other thing I will say, is that because sometimes we’re getting used to a new platform, they mention it, it can take some more energy, make sure that in between, if you are doing things that are back to back, or you’ve got calls that are back to back, or however that works for you, making sure you’re standing up, you’re moving because sometimes well, part of the platform when a virtual experience is usually we’re sitting down. Sometimes when you’re in person, you’re standing up so you can move a little bit. You don’t have to always sit down. And we don’t have the luxury of doing that when we’re on the other side of a computer, as we’re usually just sitting. So attend to your body, attend to your own experience know that, that will have an effect on the people that you are trying to support. Still be mindful and tune into the nonverbal cues. Have someone help you set the, um, set the camera up in such a way where you can maximally see people. If something happens in that environment over there, maybe there’s a sound. Maybe someone says something, Uh, and, and you missed it because you’re not in the room. It’s okay to ask. Can someone please explain to me what just happened? Can someone please fill me in on what that was, or what was just said? Work together as a team. I promise you that the individuals that you are helping are so incredibly thankful that you’re there even if you can’t be there in person. The fact that you’re even showing up virtually means so much for them and your ability to breathe be a bridge for them as they are trying to communicate and feel heard and get their needs met and feel safe right now is a such an extraordinary service that you are offering. So we take a breath and we do the best we can. And we trust that what we are doing through a new platform really is good enough.