How do I respond, can I say anything?

When learning to dialogue people often ask how to respond to their partner after they have listened to their first “send”. What do I say, can I say anything? 

Response is central to relating. Is everything a response to the previous thing? Perhaps, but I like to distinguish the words of the initiator of the dialogue, the protagonist, from the response by the person who is listening, the receiver, who I encourage to think of themselves as an auxiliary. In responding as an auxiliary, we are not asking for anything. Of course the sender (or protagonist) might listen and mirror the response, but as a responder it is useful to keep the mind-set of an auxiliary, then the response is a form of mirroring in that the protagonist can see how they impact on the other person.

A response will reveal to the protagonist who how they are received. A response may also reveal something about the listener. Self disclosure as it is known in counselling jargon. As long as the auxiliary stance is maintained it can be useful, as long as its not all ‘Me, me, me.’ Good self disclosure on the part of the listener means the protagonist will know they are speaking with a person.  A response that is well done will have the protagonist nodding, relaxing, learning about themselves and ready to open up more about themselves. They will not feel alone and trust will build. A full response will enliven the dance, create a rich space between the two, filled with meaning.

To encourage this when they ask: What do I say, can I say anything? I offer something like this:

What was most exciting to you in what you just heard.
What touched you most deeply.
One thing I have learned about you.
What I found valuable in what I heard.

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