Once again I left this until far too late but I least I wrote up my journal for the residential weekend, which came first, and my two short assignments, due in tomorrow. So finally I have time for this session which did leave me uncomfortable.
One of the questions we have to answer for our skills recording is what difference is there between listener and speaker and how do we overcome it. Two by two each pair identified their differences easily: old with young, career-driven and child-driven etc. When it came to me however the only difference I had perceived was that given a situation outlined by my speaker, I would have acted differently. I said we had no differences that had been at all relevant within the previous sessions. The tutor exclaimed”really” in a way that suggested she didn’t believe it and asked us to name the obvious difference. Well I’m white and my partner is mixed race but we still hadn’t discussed anything that made that relevant. My partner did echo this completely. The tutor suggested that being colour-blind was not appropriate as it is necessary to be aware of our differences rather than pretending they don’t exist.
I found this really difficult to handle. I try to meet people and get to know them based on the person they are, not assume that visual differences necessarily mean anything. A person brought up in Ghana will have a very different outlook and identity compared to the same person born and bred in England. But they’re black either way (unless of course they’re white). I also dislike this attitude because when I first met my partner for our skills recording S, I was very quickly aware of several things we had in common as well as differences. When I meet someone I look to the common threads rather than the differences. The things you share are what bring two people together and once you’ve got some sort of relationship then you talk about your differences. Some people did bring up differences that made more sense: if you use very different language you need to check you are being understood; sometimes people use the same words with different meanings; differences of faith, socio-economic background, class as well as character traits like confidence, extrovert.
I think what the course is trying to say only it’s saying it badly is that we each have our own identity and that identity is forged by our upbringing, our circumstances, how we react to it all, and what we do with it all as an adult. All these experiences shape us differently and mean we have different identities. We must always beware labels. Just because we are both divorced doesn’t mean we had the same divorcing experience; everybody’s childbirth is a different story. Someone brought up on the street round the corner from me could have had a completely different childhood. The only thing to do is to look at the person in front of you and get to know who they are and set aside all and any labels, whether they represent differences or similarities.
After all that discussion and after I waffled as speaker, S and I decided to talk about our childhoods to let the differences out. The more time we spend together the more we realise how unnatural this skills recording will be as we will talk about a topic earlier agreed on, possibly that we’ve gone through already and we will try and leave pauses and make it easier for each of us to demonstrate our skills. I think most people are doing the same. This recording is a demonstration of our skills rather than an examination. If it wasn’t they would be better off putting us in front of people we hadn’t worked with all year and seeing how we got on. So there is something very artificial about it.