SFP 10 – Episode 10: Seeing Interaction: Interview with Janet Beavin Bavelas, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Victoria

Simply Focus Podcast – Episode #10

Hosted by: Elfie Czerny & Dominik Godat | Intro: Bibiana Czerny | Music: 

SFP 10 - Episode 10: Seeing Interaction: Interview with Janet Beavin Bavelas

by Elfie Czerny & Dominik Godat | Simply Focus Podcast | 41:48

“So, it’s really a matter of choosing a focus. (…) And once you do that, it’s right there. And people can see it pretty quickly, so it’s really a matter of getting the other stuff out of the way.”

“There are two things that you have to do: One is to see interaction and not go into people’s heads. But the other is the timescale (…) you see how precise and fast it is (…) what goes on is regularly less than simple reaction time. (…) It really is being able to see it in slow motion.”  

Janet Beavin Bavelas

Show Notes

In today’s episode, we talk with Janet Beavin Bavelas, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Victoria, about

  • what fascinates Janet about Solution Focus
  • what fascinates Janet about microanalysis (moment-by-moment analysis) of face-to-face dialogues
  • how she stayed curious to unfold and demystify all these things around communication
  • what helped Janet to focus on the interaction even in times when people mainly focused on inner concepts and to start her career as a scientist on that
  • what she and her team see and see differently than others when they look at face-to-face dialogues moment-by-moment in microanalysis
  • what calibration is, what is happening there and how that could be important for everyday conversations and for Solution Focus
  • what changed for Janet since they wrote “Pragmatics of Human Communication” more than 50 years ago
  • hand gestures, facial gestures and gaze and common misunderstandings around these co-speech gestures
  • what the overall goal of her research was and is
  • The challenge of the week: Look at one and the same conversation (e.g. this one) in two ways: First, look at only one person and start thinking hard about what’s going on in the person’s mind, look at what the person is feeling, why she/he is doing what she/he does, what the person is thinking, focus completely on the individual. Go and get a coffee and afterwards look at the same conversation again. Look only at what’s happening between the people. What you are looking for has to be what somebody does observably – physically or vocally – that the other person would notice and that was aimed at the other person, that would effect the other person.


  • Visit Janet Beavin Bavelas’ website to learn more about studying face-to-face dialogue and about Janet and her teams precious work.
  • Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies and Paradoxes. by Paul Watzlawick, Janet Beavin Bavelas, Don D. Jackson (1967)
  • John Weakland – mentor of Janet Bavelas, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg – was one of the founders of brief and family psychotherapy. He was a Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, founding member and Co-Director of MRI’s Brief Therapy Center (along with Paul Watzlawick and Dick Fisch), and a Clinical Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
  • ‘It’s not really probably your first memory. It’s the one you devoted some effort to remember.’ Janet quoting Arthur Rank
  • Don D. Jackson (1958): Guilt and the control of pleasure in schizoid personalities.
  • ELAN is a professional tool for the creation of complex annotations on video and audio resources.
  • Herbert H. Clark, Stanford; Theory of common ground.
  • Here you can find more about the current work on calibration by Janet Bavelas, Jennifer Gerwing & Sara Healing.
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Inspiring face-to-face encounters with Janet and her lovely Newfoundland dog on Vancouver Island, BC!

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Let’s make a difference for others, share your insights, and ask great questions! Let us know what inspired you and how the challenge went for you. Friendpower is stronger than willpower. So, let’s inspire each other! Share your ideas and thoughts on what inspired you and what differences this makes for you in your everyday life. Share as much detail as possible. Your story might be the one making a vital difference for someone else. Your thoughts and ideas matter and might encourage others to keep on going their SF journey. Share this podcast episode with your friends, clients or colleagues who you think might be inspired by this conversation. It could give them some practical ideas on how to apply Solution Focus in their daily life.

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