Monthly Archives: November 2013

latte drakehotel









The latte factor in Motivational Interviewing


Reflective listening, as it’s used in Motivational Interviewing, can include both simple (content-focused) and complex (beneath-the-surface) reflections. I like to use the analogy of an iceberg to illustrate the difference between simple and complex reflections (link to article); but the iceberg image doesn’t quite to do justice to the richness of what’s “below the waterline”.


At a recent professional development workshop I attended, the facilitator used the image of a café latte to illustrate listening for varying verbal and non-verbal content. This got me thinking: a better (and better-tasting) analogy for reflective listening might well be a macchiato versus an iceberg:

The top layer of foam represents the spoken content that the person offers.

The middle (espresso) layer represents the person’s thoughts and feelings.

The bottom layer – the foundation, as it were – represents the person’s values and beliefs.



Accurate empathy (that is, listening with ears, eyes, undivided attention, and compassion/heart) is needed to hear and reflect a person’s unspoken emotions as well as underlying values.


Here’s a quick example:


Client: “It is way too stressful right now for me to make this change.”


Now you have three choices:

Reflect the spoken content (simple reflection)

Reflect your sense of what the person might be thinking or feeling (complex reflection)

Go for the underlying values/beliiefs as you understand them (complex relfection)


It goes without saying that this is offered in the spirit of Motivational Interviewing: Partnership, acceptance, compassion and evocation. You might be on target or not quite accurate, but in the end your reflective response – especially complex reflections – will forward the conversation (and exploration) in an affirming and supportive way.



conference badges










Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. (Albert Einstein)



Conference abstracts – a brief description of the research or skills that you plan to present at an academic or industry gathering – can be tricky. There are parsimonious word limits within which you must put your best foot forward, yet you need to include enough detail to convey the value and differentiation of what you are proposing for the selection committee. It’s a bit like advertising copy: the idea is to grab the customer right from the start, and then convincingly demonstrate why your product is necessary and desirable. With concision, clarity and simplicity.


I use four key questions to guide my abstract-writing. This keeps me focused on articulating what the value-add will be to both the conference and the audience, since value-add is what the selection committee really cares about (while wading through reams of submissions).


Here they are –  my four guiding questions (accompanied by supplementary explanatory questions):


  1. Why is it relevant to the audience? (Why should they care?)
  2. What are the key components (points/data/major findings) of your talk/session? (What do you bring to the table?)
  3. What instructional strategies will you use? (Is this going to be boring or amazing?)
  4. What will people take away? (How will this session make the world just a tiny bit better?)


I have been on both sides (submitting and reviewing abstracts), and in my experience, if you can satisfactorily answer the above questions in a brief and well-written abstract, your chances of success will be greatly increased.



Bonus tip: Conferences have varying formatting requirements, word limits, and submission guidelines. Make sure to check all of this on the conference website before agonizing over your submission.


Good luck!




Happy Assorted Biscuits









How well do we integrate all three in our teaching/learning environments?



On a Porter Airlines flight the other day I read an interview with branding guru Ron Tite in the in-flight magazine, re:porter. In the article, Tite notes that you can add value to consumer and corporate brands in three ways: via education, inspiration or entertainment (ideally combining all three).


This got me thinking about teaching and learning tools, and the extent to which we educators successfully integrate each of the elements (education, inspiration, fun) into our classroom delivery and student engagement strategies.


The education part implies some form of didactic instruction. Easy enough. Inspiration is harder, and often arises from hands-on practice – whether through student interactions, simulation, critical analysis or collaborative learning. What about fun? How do we build in play, humour, joy, excitement, passion? Attending to the meta-learning environment, fostering a sense of community, safety, risk-taking and engagement would seem to be preconditions for having fun in the classroom. As does the extent to which I’m enjoying myself too. It seems to me that a combination of all of these elements is integral to transformative learning.


We talk about scaffolding learning to help engineer success experiences for students. Let’s also consider how to scaffold learning to engineer fun experiences!




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