As youthworkers we encounter this on a pretty regular basis, especially if we’re out on the streets and meeting young people in their own patch. Its the banter. For the uninitiated, banter, is the really fast cryptic chat between young people – usually in short sharp sentences, questions and using codes of language in the local accent. Its a often in the natural peer/ community groups, rather than the gathered groups in the building spaces.
Banter also often is exclusive, given that it can be cryptic, and about situations the youth worker might not know about.
It can also be derogatory and rude. And a sign that if young people are having these banter moments, its an active sign that they’re not wanting to external interference from a youthworker in that space.
So, as a detached youthworker what can you do, in those banter moments?
Firstly realise that the power of the situation, and context is probably theirs, given if you are on detached, and thus outside, in a park or on the streets. They have every right to want to talk to their friends without you, actually its what they were doing before you arrived.
remember that you are the invader in their family gathering, and so be pleased to be party to it, and not excluded from it.
Stay attentive to what is going on, in the relationship dynamics between the young people
Be present in the space, focussing on the moments when you might be included in it, when the question becomes your question.
Dont interrupt, unless there is an obvious pause, or eye contact that allows you to. Part of the beauty of this relative low grade art of conversation is to let it flow and see where it goes.
Dealing with banter is part of the game of being on detached, its form is as much part of the initiation process of acceptance – can we keep up, can we cope, will we interupt or take power away.
All maybe lead to the possibility of other , ‘more fruitful’ conversations, but the banter in itself, where it doesn’t become threatening, is to be appreciated as what it is, young people in their community, communicating in their way.
Given sometimes, the lack of conversation in the space, due to the distraction of technology in the space, sometimes there might be nothing more normal or refreshing than young people in conversation with each other.
Sometimes just surf on the wave of it, ride and wait for the smooth moments.