Consent, Massage &Peanut Butter & Jelly
*Full disclosure, I believe I learned this exercise in grade school creative writing.
Frequently when talking to clients you may think that you are communicating effectively and giving a great consent when you actually are not. This failing actually happens with everyone at some time. People are full of funny little quirks. If you ask them if they understand, they may say yes when they mean no, or you yourself may unintentionally overcomplicate the matter in order to show you understand when you don’t understand. To make things even murkier, lurking below our psychology, the actual words we choose may have a totally different meaning to another person based on the context, their past experience, and the desired outcome.So how do you know if you’re really making sense and connecting on any legitimate level?
I would always advocate for clarity and simplicity of speech, but sometimes even when you think you are being clear you are not.
This recently happened between a staff member and a client. As the mediator, I listened to both sides of the event, and both thought they had clearly communicated their thoughts but both walked away completely at odds with the outcome. So what happened?
-The client had expressed that her shoulders were tight and her neck needed work
-After a full intake, the therapist confirmed that she agreed and that she also wanted to work on those areas and described “We have 30 minutes. I would like to spend about 15 min on each area. How does that sound?”
-At the end of the massage the client was unhappy and stated, “Although I thought the massage was quite good, I asked for my neck to be done”
-In talking to the therapist, I learned she had performed a 30 minute massage, with 15 minutes on the shoulders and 15 minutes on the neck, but she had performed the majority of the cervical massage prone, rather than supine because she felt the client was very relaxed and did not wish to ruin that therapeutically. As the client was use to the neck treatment having been performed face up, she assumed it had not been done and left unhappy.
Even though both parties sat down to communicate formally, because of the personal histories they brought to the table, they failed to reach clarity. For reasons like this, and many others, I really recommend putting your consent through the peanut butter and jelly test. It goes like this:
Write instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to an alien, who does not know anything about this planet.
While the task seems simple enough, you will soon find you are going to run into problems when you start critically thinking about things such as:
- What is jelly?
- What is a plate? What does that look like?
- What is a knife?
- How do you determine amounts?
- What are descriptive terms? What do they mean?
Through this practice, you begin to understand there is a LOT we take for granted in our communication, even when relating to other professionals. Words like ‘massage, trigger point, therapeutic, deep, strong, sports, etc’ may have lots of meaning, some meaning, no meaning, or a different meaning, depending on who you are talking to. So if you think you are communicating clearly or if you suspect that you’re not, try running through the peanut butter and jelly test and see what you are taking for granted.