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Appointment for Worry

  • Posted on July 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM

After Willy had his first major seizure, the one we knew was a seizure, I took him to a neurologist up in Madison. After discussing our family history, I took Alex to the neurologist, too. The neurologist had enough reason for concern to recommend we conducted some additional tests, including a second MRI. At Willy’s last appointment, we canceled Alex’s appointment to discuss the results of his MRI, because the doctor had peeked at the results and declared all was well.

Then, the nurse called and uncanceled the appointment.

Naturally, I was concerned. Was all not well after all? Actually, those who know me better know that I was, underneath a front of my own version of normal, seething with anxiety.

We waited months, of course. We arrived in a rush, of course. Then, to my surprise, it turned out our appointment was never actually rescheduled. It took some persistence with the receptionist, but finally she called the nurse and the nurse talked to the doctor and the doctor, being the conscientious man that he is, agreed to see us.

We met with the nurse, who asked me leading questions. We met with the medical student, who asked more leading questions. I got the impression that we’d missed something, because all those questions were geared toward revealing the changes in Alex’s behaviors that we’d seen.

But, we hadn’t seen any. Alex seemed like Alex, which is far from normal, but it is his own version of normal, so I wasn’t concerned about that! Oh no, what had I missed? What hadn’t I seen? Had I been too busy to notice that something was really wrong with my child?

Then, the doctor came in. I explained why I’m here. He was obviously relieved. He explained what had happened. I was immediately relieved.

The gist of it is this: The nurse was NOT supposed to uncancel our appointment; she was supposed to confirm that the doctor had compared MRI results and verified that there was no significant change to the area of concern and that there was therefore no cause for concern. In short, Alex didn’t need to come back unless we observed significant, worrisome alterations in his behavior. So, obviously, when we showed up for an appointment that didn’t exist, the doctor thought we had observed significant, worrisome alterations in Alex’s behavior.

All that worrying for nothing but a case of the miscommunications! At least it ended with relief.

On Engaging and Miscommunication (2 of 3)

  • Posted on June 29, 2010 at 12:20 AM

In my last post I introduced the concept of engaging and how it relates to prejudice.  Lack of engagement also occurs at what I would call a micro level.  At this level, we fail to engage with people we know and care about.  This is less an issue of stereotyping than it is lack of communication.

We interact with people we know on a regular basis.  These are our family members, our friends, our co-workers, and our neighbors.  We don’t necessarily stereotype these individuals, but we do create mental templates of who and what they are.  These templates are more the accumulated experiences we’ve had with these individuals.

It is often easier to interact with these templates than it is to engage with the individuals. This goes back to the difference of engaging with your child and half-listening while thinking about that pesky to-do list running through your mind.  The problem with failing to engage while talking with people we know is that even our templates of these individuals are faulty. 

However well we know an individual, our perception of them is always filtered through our own biases and our own experiences.  We insert these filtered perceptions into our mental templates of individuals, and what we get is a flawed, distorted copy of the person we know.  When we interact with the template instead of the person, we are interacting with a distortion.  Only by genuinely engaging with the individual are we able to break past our own internal filters to see the person more clearly and understand what the individual is trying to communicate.

This becomes especially important when we interact with people with atypical means of communication, but that will be the subject of my next post.

The point of this post is that failing to engage with individuals we know creates miscommunication.  If we think we know what someone is going to say, we often fail to listen to what is actually said.  Even after we have failed to hear them, we think we know what they said.  In our mind, we insert the conversation we think we had into our mental template of that person.  Not only does this mean we have miscommunicated in this one instance, it also perpetuates the miscommunication in future conversations.  We go back to the conversation we think we had and take it a little further the next time we talk to that person.  The second time we get a little further from what is actually being said.

Only be engaging in the conversation and listening actively and involving ourselves in how our own life intersects with the other person’s life can we truly know what that person is saying.