More on Communication

I mentioned on Monday that sometimes we forget how much is lost in translation from the ancient texts to our own language.   We loose cultural nuances that we might not even be aware of.

I am doubtful that I am the only one who often forgets that there are mini cultural nuances in words as well.      I realize this again and again when I write.  Sometimes I get comments on posts on my other blog that seem to completely miss the point I was trying to make.   While I sometimes think that perhaps I have no communicated well, other times I know I could not have communicated any more clearly and yet I am still misunderstood by some readers.  Frequently there will be some readers who don’t understand but others who do.

At previous offices when I have had the opportunity to watch interactions between people.  I can often observe that people are not communicating well because they are misunderstanding a word.   There may be nuances in the way the word is used for one person that differs for the others.    In order to avoid hurt feelings, it becomes important to realize how the other person is using the word.   While everyone may think they know the definition, there are cultural and regional differences in how words are used, not to mention personal nuances given to each word.

My parents were from the Midwest.  I ate supper.   My friends ate dinner, which sounded pretentious to my parents. However, because dinner was regionally so much more common, eventually as I grew up, I started eating dinner.  It was really no more pretentious than supper.    When I am in the Midwest I easily convert to the term supper (lest I be thought to be pretentious).     Depending upon where I am, I avoid drinking soda,  pop, soda pop, or Coke.   They’re all the same.  Yes, even Coke is a generic term in some parts of the country meaning pop (or soda or soda pop).     I travel on the freeway, highway, interstate or the I, depending upon where I am and who I am talking to.

It pays to be mindful of the differences in the way language is used from state to state, region to region and country to country.   Personal nuances can be the most difficult to sort out when the person you are communicating with is a patient.  This is why mindful presence is so important.  Being very present with the patient means you can see their face and see the reaction  they have to each word. You get to understand when something is triggering them.  It may be the news (crushed because you have told them it will take a while for them to heal) or it could be the way you said something that means something completely different (awhile may mean years to them while for you it means only months).   It’s important to clarify.

I had a friend who had many family members die of a stroke.  She was having TIAs regularly.  She had one in front of her therapist.  To impress upon her the importance of seeking medical treatment, he said these could precede a stroke.   Not only did she not get treatment, she never went back to him.   This is a person who listens and communicates professionally.   However, my friend had never brought up her family history and the fear of having a stroke in the treatment sessions, instead focusing on other personal issues.    I know that the therapist was probably completely unaware of why she reacted so strongly to him, although I do not doubt he had concerns about what was happening with her.   As a friend I knew that it was that one word.

Most patients don’t have that kind of reaction but it pays to be mindful and aware of where things are going in a treatment, particularly if you have to discuss sensitive issues.  Compassion and understanding that someone has a different viewpoint is always important.  Their viewpoint colors the words they hear in a unique way that can sometimes mean you aren’t communicating as clearly as you thought.

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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