I had heard this phrase but never fully understood it, nor did I follow up until recently. There it was in a Ted Talk.
Narrowly defined, it is about reaching out to those who are non-verbal such as folks with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The concept gives verbal folks a way of connecting. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
We often try to engage non-verbal people with a question to get them to recall a memory. “Do you remember how much fun we had on the beach during our summers together?” They can’t – we ask the impossible after their non-verbal stage is well established.
We are learning that non-verbal people often have many ways of connecting that we miss or don’t give them time to show us.
Inviting one into expression is about asking open-ended questions without a right or wrong answer. Waiting, for sometimes what we can feel strongly as, a painfully long time. Then sometimes, something clicks, and they act.
An example from the Ted Talk references a non-verbal man living at home with a caregiver. The “expression” person arrived, new to the scene. She knew he liked walking along the shoreline of a nearby lake. After the pleasantries, she asked him, “How does water move?”
If we were asked such a question, we might be inclined to respond with rudery -if that is a word.
But after a relatively long silence, he stood up slowly and went to his collection of driftwood pieces on the counter. He picked a bit up and slowly moved his hand with the wood in a wavelike fashion. This developed into engaging the other arm and eventually moving his whole body with his wave.
It looked similar to modern dance, artistic and mesmerizing.
I won’t spoil the “expression” lady’s work of putting on a play to a paying audience in a care home of Homer’s Odyssey. It is worth clicking on the link below.
Please give this a bit of a think. First, If you have a relative, friend or patient you provide care to, can you think of a question to ask that might have a similar effect as the water question? Refer to this as “the beautiful question.” It might take some time and effort to frame this but invest that time and see what happens.
Second, I thought that I didn’t want to wait for the time to have non-verbal people in my life. I’d start practicing now. It takes reaching out. It takes listening. And it takes a dose of wonder and curiosity.
For me, the key is to be genuinely interested in the response, including my verbal friends. It often leads to the most exciting rabbit holes!
I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think below.
Thanks to Ted Talk for inspiring this Blog.
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And my thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.