By Marina Jurjevic, Interaction Practitioner
I have always thought that the best prop we can use is ourselves: our hands, our gaze, our smile, our sounds, pieces of our clothes that we flick in response to our partner’s movement, rhythms that we produce by tapping our foot or singing. The options are endless and that makes connecting a truly creative process.
When we use Intensive Interaction, we consciously tune in with our partner by using their way of expressing themselves as our base. We use ‘language’ that is familiar, motivating and stimulating for our partner. Sometimes, finding an effective way of connecting becomes a real enigma, because each person is an individual with unique ways of expressing themselves. Our aim is to ‘decode’ that uniqueness and find creative ways to establish meaningful contact with our partner. That often involves complete dedication (undivided attention), unconditional positive regard and the playful and creative nature of interaction.
Each conversation is different but they all have structure. Following that structure enables us to connect. An effective connection draws our partner into conversation, motivating them to stay engaged and to go further. When our verbal/vocal and body language expressions become communicative we intentionally break the rules to make our conversation more interesting and surprising. We motivate our partners to do the same – to improvise, to be creative – to become communicators. Yes, we use ‘old’ repetitive language, but not to repeat ‘old stories’, we aim to use it to share new stories.
I often recall an old Italian poem that says how reading books is an important part of our life. This is a ‘prop’ that enriches our language and enable us to ‘live many lives’ (through the lives of their characters). Equally, in Intensive Interaction we occasionally need props to enrich our language, to stimulate interaction to bring profound and/or more playful elements to it.
My favourite prop is my keyboard, even though I consider it rather as ‘an extension’ of myself. I am not using the keyboard as an instrument of entertainment, although sometimes it can be, but preferably as an instrument to communicate beyond words and in a more profound way. As an artist, I am interested in improvisation and in creative methods of expressive communication. Through my personal experience I’ve learned how often improvisation brings out unexpected connections. By playing the keyboard in response to our partner’s self-expression, their body movements, direction of their gaze, the rhythm of their breathing, their playing as part of turn taking etc. I am looking for a ‘way in’.
Sometimes I play non-interactively to create a sound space that eliminates or reduces sensory overload. Although not an interactive playing, it has a purpose of creating a safe, neutral space. I play the same theme continuously in a rhythm and dynamic depending on the situation, and as we gradually become tuned in, I start to alter the theme slightly, to become slightly different but similar and familiar. Through achieving balance we have a platform to start a more profound communication, less dependant on surroundings and distractions. It is said that music is a universal language and this quote works for me: we don’t need conventional language to develop our conversation and our focus is on other elements of our communication.