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Co-constructing skills and abilities

Video Type: In Practice

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  • Summary

In this exchange also featured in chapter 4 as Relating to values, skills and abilities, and agency, David is, in effect, assessing for competence. He has heard Christie describe exchanges with her estranged husband, John, and now seeks to enlarge the account of these, with a focus not on problems, but on competencies that she has been able to display in difficult circumstances. Notice this exchange features not a language of “effects” but instead one of responses—while on first view one might conclude Christie “doesn’t do anything” in response to John’s abusive behavior, a closer inspection reveals that she actively responds in a highly constructive manner. David asks highly specific questions to get a picture of the choices Christie made in the face of challenges. What were the challenges? What were the choices? What questions does David use to expand the description of Christie’s active responses and the abilities she displayed? How does he get at her motivation (what made it important enough for her to do it)? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Not “fighting back” or retaliating when someone is aggressive can sometimes be seen as a shortcoming—a failure to “stand up for oneself” that must be remedied with “assertiveness training.” David does not assume Christie’s actions are the expression of deficit; instead he listens with the assumption that when people are transgressed, they engage in acts of resistance. He therefore listen for competence and witnesses the story of someone who managed to keep herself and her child safe in a dangerous situation. David’s questions seek to unpack this development in all its richness, to determine, among other things: 1. what steps Christie took in responding to John; 2. what skills and abilities were needed to achieve this; 3. what knowledge informed her actions; 4. what values she was busy standing for. Was the incident with John “really” about deficit or competence? The question fails to recognize the interpretive quality of experience. The meaning of the event is not merely “discovered”; it is co-constructed by both David and Christie through their conversation about it. Their exchange contributes to consolidating skills and abilities Christie has never previously named, fortifying her for similar encounters in the future.

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