Knowing where to sit e.g. knowing your seating status; knowing your gender status; knowing your title status; knowing your age status; knowing where to enter the house; knowing when to visit; knowing when to speak; knowing your boundaries; knowing the protocols of the family or community setting. This relationship is important because speaking out of turn or sitting in the wrong place can create embarrassment or create barriers in the relationship. When you understand this space or “Va” then the doors will be open to you to proceed.
Va Fealoa’i and Va Nofo can overlap or happen simultaneously
This is the stage where you connect and develop a meaningful relationship with the person. This is acknowledging the privileged space between you and the other: person, group, family, community, village,
Understanding this space and acknowledging the process is crucial. Acknowledge and respect the language, protocols and boundaries of the relationship. Questions and conversations will be around “Who is your family?”, “Where do you come from?”
Understanding the cultural speaking protocols, which means you understand the “tuaoi”. You understand your boundaries and the boundaries of the relationship. This can also mean you understand the order of process e.g. who speaks first, second etc. You acknowledge the district, village, family, titles and chiefs. This is an extension of Talatalanoa—privileging the relationship between you and the other person, family and community. The relationship is established and action phase begins, the door has been opened and permission to enter has been granted.
Va Feloai; Va Nofo and Va Tuaoi overlap and may be used simultaneously because of the closeness of the relationships but also differences. The relationship, boundaries, protocols and status of your audience determines the action you will take and not the other way round.
The belief that a person is not alone. As Figiel (1996) aptly states, “I does not exist, I is always we, because I is always part of the aiga (family) part of the nu’u (village) part of Samoa”. Figiel’s profound statement is symbolic for all Pasifika people acknowledging that they are never alone because they are part of their family, their ancestors, their land, their heritage and culture that is sacred and embedded within their soul.
This relationship acknowledges the space between people, ancestors, spirits, the land, the sea, all living things, the environment and the ecosystem. It acknowledges the sacredness of family, the home, places of worship, gender roles, and the workplace. It also acknowledges the structure of the matai system, family titles and village titles - a key component that is sacred and spiritual within the realms of talatalanoa.
Talatalanoa is the centre element of the engagement process with the individual; family or community in counselling. Talatalanoa exists in every stage of the process whether you are interfacing with a client or you are speaking to a church group. All other relationships are strands of Talatalanoa. Talatalanoa is much deeper than just talking or having a conversation, it is important that we build trust, rapport and respect within the relationship.