Yesterday in Zoom! we learned about Fat Larry, the legitimacy of ‘virtual’ spiritual direction and heard how video conferencing can highlight the need to brush up your listening skills. Today we move to Point Three:
3: Never work with children and animals! We’ll stick to animals for this one, given that our ‘children’ have long since flown the nest. Yes, lycra-clad husbands or partners wandering in could be a liability. (To reassure any prospective clients, this has only ever happened once…in the middle of church virtual coffeetime!) Our two hairy pooches are never allowed in the room during a face to face session. I’ve waived it occasionally for video meetings. Pets can be a wonderful icebreaker for a nervous directee or they can distract everybody as they try, as only animals can, to hog the limelight. I’ve not yet recovered from the occasion when I heard a sudden indignant ‘whirring’ sound stage left, to discover the two of them squabbling over a sofa cushion! Enough said.
4: Check the tech beforehand: Yes, just because it worked fine last session, it might not this; even if you think you possess the technical skills of Bill Gates. Set up in good time. Have a Plan B up your sleeve in case your chosen platform fails and establish who begins the call or who calls back if you need to reboot. Prop your phone, laptop or whatever up on something so that the camera is at or above eye-level, unless you think that your directee really appreciates the view up your nose! Mine consists of a large box and five big books. Not unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa really. The boxes, not my nose.
Then relax; make a Cup of Something, and breathe… You’ll be fine.
5: Gilding the lily: Back to monster in the swamp territory. This last piece of advice is entirely optional. Please, please, don’t go rushing off to hire the entire BBC makeup department on my say so. Maybe it’s just me, but all these video apps seem to drain colour and definition from your face. Do you remember those dinky little kiosks where you go to have your passport photos taken? Yes, it’s like that…Phantom of the Night time. At the very least, a quick dab of powder and lipsalve *might save your poor directee from wondering whether they’ve lost you in The London smog of yesteryear. Oh, and subdued lighting is so kind to your wrinkles.
* I confess to not always following my own advice here , especially at the start of lockdown when I was feeling pretty grotty. It was the nearest I’ve ever got to sporting the ‘Goth’ look.
So there we are. Five handy hints for spiritual directors, pastoral workers, clergy, therapists, in fact, anybody who is finding that these strange times require the acquisition of new and challenging skills. You can do it. We can learn from each other. Please do add your two pennyworth to the topic in the Comments.
And if all else fails, look at Yonatan Gruber’s great ‘tutorial’ and have a good laugh!