Talking About Talking with a High School Counselor
By: Jennifer Spiegler, SVP Strategic Partnerships, Kognito
In addition to leading for Kognito’s PK-12 practice, I am the parent of a teenager and once in a while my worlds collide. That happened in a recent conversation with the guidance counselor at my son’s school. I loved the metaphor she chose when she said, “Sometimes using the right words is like watering a plant.” The effect of her words on me was instantaneous. Yes, it’s just like that. We’ve all seen it – language that either helps the listener to flourish or causes them to wither. That plant-watering image has stayed with me for weeks; its simplicity makes it an easy touchstone for remembering that you always have a choice with your words – to water or to wither. I even thought about it yesterday while watering our much neglected houseplants. The water hits the soil; there’s a slight shudder as the water soaks the roots and rises in their stems.
As a parent, spouse, friend, or colleague I can easily lose sight of this essential truth – words matter. Using them consistently well – so that we are watering instead of withering – takes practice and mindful vigilance. As the employee of a company that has dedicated itself to changing the way people use conversations to promote positive change, you’d think I’d be good at this by now. Well, the reality is: not always.
Communication and PK12 Kognito Simulations
I’m reminded anew as I demonstrate a Kognito role-play conversation between a high school teacher, Mr. Lyons, and Rene, a virtual student he suspects may be cutting herself. Rene bristles and stiffens defensively when Mr. Lyons says she seems stressed lately, but if he says, “I’ve been concerned about you lately” she sighs, softens and looks thoughtful, saying, “Oh, really? Why?” With my own high-schooler at home, this is still a work in progress for me. The reflexive words that come are not always the ones I would choose if I were always mindful of watering vs. withering. I’ll keep using the plant metaphor and my frequent conversations with Rene to help improve my averages!