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  • 00:01

    [MUSIC PLAYING][Conversation Analysis-- CARM Training]

  • 00:10

    ELIZABETH STOKOE: One of the challenges for any researcheris to try and turn social life, everyday life out there,into something that we can capture and studysystematically.[Elizabeth Stokoe, Professor of Social Interaction,Loughborough University]And one of the ways that people do that veryoften in the social sciences and humanitiesis to interview people about their lives,or in focus groups, or survey them.And the problem with interviews, and focus groups, and surveys

  • 00:31

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: is that what you're doing is capturingpeople's post-hoc theorizations and accounts of their liferather than capturing their actual life as it happens.So if you're interested in understandingin how life is organized when people are really living it,then what you want to do is record it and thenanalyze it using conversation analysis.CA involves collecting a large numberof audio or video recordings of naturally-occurring

  • 00:53

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: conversation in workplace or domestic settings.The data are transcribed and analyzedusing a technical system that permits a forensic analysisof the constituent activities that comprisethe complete interaction.So what we do is record people talking in a whole bunchof different settings.It could be ordinary domestic telephone calls, first dates,

  • 01:16

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: or even through to things like police interrogation, hostagenegotiation, or quite a lot of work on medical encounters.Once you've collected the recordings of the data,then you transcribe them using a forensic approachthat allows you to understand how talk is delivered.So you want to be able to capture thingslike the pacing of talk, the intonation of talk--you can hear that my voice is going up and down.

  • 01:36

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: You want to be able to capture those kinds of thingsin the transcript.Then what you're trying to do is identifythe overall organization of any particular encounter.Traditional approaches to language and communicationtreat language as a transmission systemfrom one mind to another.One of the reasons why people have resisted

  • 01:56

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: studying natural language is partlybecause of the very famous linguist, Noam Chomsky,who argued that real language, real talk,is far too messy to study.So if you want to try and understandpeople's linguistic competence, what we dois we invent sentences and try to get people to identifycorrect component parts of sentencesand understand their competence that way.

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: But it turns out, and it is one of the massive insightsof conversation analysis over the last 50 years,that talk is very highly systematic and organized.So it turns out that the way we aska question in a particular settingto try and get a particular outcomeis going to be very similar.So one of the things I've looked at is people on first dates.And one of the things that people often

  • 02:38

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: want to know on a first date is the personthat they're talking to, their prospective new partner,they want to know their relationship history.And it's amazing to find that whenyou look at lots of dates-- so men to women and womento men-- the way they ask the question about relationshiphistory is remarkably similar in all of those occasions.And they tend to ask, so, been married, or?

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: So have you been divorced then or?And they ask the question in the same kind of waywith the trail off or at the end, which doesa particular kind of thing.But the interest for a conversation analystis that it's systematic, it happens the same wayevery time.And yet, you wouldn't really predictthat if you think about it ahead of actuallyseeing the data itself.

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: We're not really interested in the people themselvesas individual personalities.What we're interested in is the actions that build the dateand understanding the design of the actions thatbuild the date.What one can do with conversation analysisis study, for example, neonatologists talkingto parents or police officers, talking to suspects,or whomever it might be that-- whatever encounterit is that you're interested in, and identify what works,

  • 03:43

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: and build training bottom-up in that way.One thing that I might start with, with a basic transcript,is silences.So I might look at the transcriptand spot a silence of over a second.Most people might think that between turns at talkthere is about a second of silence.But in fact conversation analystshave shown that there's a tenth of a second or less

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: between the turns of talk that people have in an encounter.And this tells us that anything more than 2/10 of a second,actually, is somewhat of a delay between turns.So if you have a silence of something like 1.9, thenthat tells you that whatever's justhappened between the two speakers,there's something interesting going on.And that might be anything I think from people starting

  • 04:24

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: to turn down an offer that's just been made to them,or try to resist the terms of a question that'sjust been put to them.There are various can openers, if you like, into interactionwhen you start again with your basic transcript.You might decide that you're goingto look at the opening turn of a conversation or justthe opening two turns between parties.And this can lead you down some really interesting

  • 04:46

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: trajectories.So for example, I'm doing a projectat the moment looking at people telephoning their GPto make an appointment.And one of the things that me and my colleagues startedto get quite excited about was the possibilitythat whether or not somebody started their conversationwith the receptionist with, "hello" or "oh, hello"

  • 05:08

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: was going to be consequential in some kind of way.So the receptionist answered the phone and says,hello this is the doctor's surgery, Christine speaking,can I help.The patient will say, hello, I was just wonderingif I could make an appointment.Or they might say, oh, hello, I was just wonderingif I could make an appointment.So in that very start of that very first thingthat a patient says, "oh, hello" versus "hello,"

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: what can we find out about why they might be doing that?And one of our hypotheses was that it'sto do with waiting time.So we were looking at the time peoplehad been waiting on the phone before the phone was answered.And we started to get excited about the pattern thatseemed to be emerging-- we're still doing the work,so we're not quite sure-- that whenpeople have been waiting a long time they say, "oh, hello."

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: It sounds like they're surprised now that they're actuallybeen talked to, versus someone who hasn't been waiting verylong and they do say "hello."But of course there's also-- if a receptionist knows thisand they're trained to watch out for that, thensomeone who says "oh, hello," thisis someone who's probably been waitingon hold for quite a long time.The problem is that if you want to understandwhat worked in any particular encounter,

  • 06:12

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: we're not very good at reflecting on our encountersat the level of detail that a conversationanalyst can provide when they do their analysis.So for example, I've done lots of workwith mediators who are trying to get people to say yeson the telephone to mediate.And then of course what mediators want to dois train anybody who is on the phone to really persuadepeople to mediate.Because if they don't get people to say yes to mediate,

  • 06:33

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: then they don't have a business.And the problem is that when you go back and thinkabout a conversation that you've justhad with a prospective client and they said yes or no,it's quite clear when you look at what'sgoing on in those encounters that people don't reallyknow what worked and what didn't work.Because if they did, they wouldn'tdo the things that don't work.So a conversation analyst can study real encounters,identify the things that seem to push people

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: toward saying yes or no, and then you havethat the evidence base then for perhaps going and trainingmediators.And that's what I do with my conversation analytic role playmethod.[Conversation Analysis in the Workplace-- Conversation RolePlay Method]Traditional methods for training and assessingcommunication skills are based in role play or simulation.

  • 07:16

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: One of the problems with simulationis that people often do things in training that theydon't do in real encounters.In our research, we found that people make explicitor exaggerate the things that theyknow should be in their encountersaccording to what the training guidelines say.Guidelines for interaction themselvescan be problematic, as they're oftenbased on a stereotypical-- rather than scientific--

  • 07:38

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: understanding of conversation and what works.So people may do things to, say, develop rapportthat sound clunky and unnatural comparedto more subtle and effective rapportbuilding in real encounters.CARM uses anonymized video or audio recordingsof actual encounters between membersof the public and organizations, or between professionalsin their workplace, as the basis for training, all underpinned

  • 08:01

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: by research that has identified the important trainables.I'm currently working with three different projects.The first is with the Metropolitan Policelooking at their hostage negotiation training.The second is with neonatologistsat University College London lookingat the way they talk to parents about end-of-life decisionswith extremely premature babies.

  • 08:21

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: And the third one is the ongoing workwith mediators trying to help them get clients.

  • 08:25

    NEIL MARLOW: For a long time, we'vebeen very interested in the interaction between parentsand doctors, and particularly whenwe have to explain a difficult diagnosisor a difficult treatment plan.[Neil Marlow, Professor of Neonatal Medicine,University College London]And we were very interested in how this went onand how we had some situations where it all went very smoothly

  • 08:46

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: and other situations where there were great difficulties.And so we use a technique called conversation analysisto diagnose the problems that peoplewere having in conversations.The General Medical Council recommendsthat we, when we talk to parents,we use the concept of what's in the bestinterests of the patient.

  • 09:08

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: And one of the things that using that doesis tell the patient that you're right,and if the patient-- or the parent in our situation--goes against that in the discussion that goes onthat they're actually wrong.And what we're trying to do is to getpeople to avoid using situations like thatand use situations where the parent or the patient

  • 09:31

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: feels there are real choices available to them.Instead of role play with actors or with other people around,we actually use real conversations.And we were able to stop the conversationand then say where do you think this went nextor what do you think the effect of doing that was.And that becomes a very powerful learning tool

  • 09:55

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: for clinicians and for doctors thatare trying to work out the best way to communicate.You don't consult a doctor unless you'vegot something wrong, usually.And the sort of conversations I'mhaving are usually with parents whoare very distressed because their baby is ill.

  • 10:16

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: And therefore, one has to be verycareful to use the language which actually, A, gives thema feeling that they're involved in any decisions that are madefor their baby, and secondly that it gives theman opportunity to express what they think about what the waythings are going.Then at least we can all work transparently to get things

  • 10:37

    NEIL MARLOW [continued]: right for the baby.

  • 10:39

    ELIZABETH STOKOE: It can be useful to thinkof a conversation in terms of a race track or coursewith a distinct landscape.You start at the beginning with your recipients or recipients.And along the way you complete various projects.You anticipate and avoid hurdles or youconstruct hurdles that can then knockthe interaction off course.

  • 10:60

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: For example, telephone calls between an organizationand a client or potential client mayinvolve projects such as opening the call,explaining the reason for the call,explaining problems, explaining services, asking questions,offering services or advice, making appointments,and closing the call.CA focuses on how those projects are designed

  • 11:21

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: and how different designs can leadto different conversational trajectoriesor outcomes, either avoiding or crashinginto the race track's hurdles.For instance, explaining a service one waymay lead to higher client uptake than whenit's explained another way.It can be the difference between winning or losing the race.CARM helps people to understand the landscape

  • 11:41

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: of their particular workplace or professional race track.A lot of research on communicationdoesn't start where CA starts, with an analysis of peopleactually doing their job.Instead, it asks people to reflect on what they door to report on it.This leaves the landscape and organization of the racetrack itself completely unstudied.Or, to use another analogy, it leaves the actual interaction

  • 12:03

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: in an unanalyzed interactional black box.CARM works by turning analyses of race tracksinto evidence-based training materials.Workshop participants can then effectively livethrough the same projects and hurdlesas those in the recorded materialsthat they're listening to or watching.Training participants are exposed, often uniquely

  • 12:24

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: in their careers, to the actual activitiesof anonymized colleagues doing the job the participantsthemselves do, usually from an organization basedin some other part of the country.Because of the way CARM, works they'reable to identify the practices that workand those that don't work.[Challenges of Conversation Analysis]

  • 12:44

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: Conversation analysis, I think, faces three challenges.The first one is that it quite oftengets caricatured as being about just talk.Why does one need a science of this stuff that we all just do?And of course, what I've hoped to have explained todayis that we do need a science of thingswe just do because we're not verygood at going back and thinking about our talk

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: and how it works how it doesn't work.You need a conversation on this to identifythose precise moments of turning points in interactions,if you like.A second challenge is kind of related to caricature,and that is that if you're not familiar with conversationanalysis then it tends to get lumpedinto the mix of qualitative research methods.

  • 13:27

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: So qualitative research methods are typicallysmall scale, interview-based or focus-group-basedwhere you might have a small number of participantsand you talk to them at length.Conversation analysis is both a qualitative method on the onehand-- in that you're looking at fine detail for a long time,just looking perhaps at one case of an encounter--

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    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: but it's also designedly large scale.So for example, currently I'm working with, say,3,000 calls looking at people telephoning their GP because Iwant to find out what works when people telephone their GPand what receptionists are doing that could improvethe patient experience on the phone.So conversation analysis is both qualitative,but also quantitative.So it doesn't fit neatly into the qualitative-quantitative

  • 14:11

    ELIZABETH STOKOE [continued]: divide.And a third challenge is simply getting data.So it can be quite difficult sometimesto either persuade organizations or different peoplein workplaces to provide recordings of their workplacelife, their organizational life, as it happens.But if you can persuade people to record,and if you're persistent and really tryto pursue those recordings, then the payoff is quite large.

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Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:In Practice

Methods: Conversation analysis

Keywords: communication processes; communication skills; conversation; doctor-patient communication; end of life care; hostage negotiations; interpersonal communication; language and communication; linguistic competence; mediation; Silence, silences, and silencing; turn-taking ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Professor Elizabeth Stokoe describes her research in conversational analysis, the study of human interactions. She studies recordings of real-life conversations to glean insight into which communication strategies work and which don't. Data drawn from these studies can help train people to be better, more effective communicators.

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Conversation Analysis: CARM Training

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe describes her research in conversational analysis, the study of human interactions. She studies recordings of real-life conversations to glean insight into which communication strategies work and which don't. Data drawn from these studies can help train people to be better, more effective communicators.