Say Whaaaaaaat?

One of my colleagues was talking in a board meeting about his interactions with state legislators.  

“I’ve had several very nice telephone conversations with them. Heck, I’ve even run into one of them at Publix!”

He was very positive about the availability of the politicians and their willingness to talk, but not so much about the actions that came after the conversations. 

“They always seem to be very attentive to the fact that local issues need to be addressed at the state level, but when it comes to voting time…” 

In this season of presidential primaries and soon the general election cycle, we often see this disconnect. 

Politicians  are a very socially present and media-focused example of Everyman. 

No matter the nationality or the political party or the particular leaning towards one issue or another, they have one thing in common. They use political speak to interact with the world. 

Have you noticed these things?

They never, and I mean never, answer the question directly. 

They are constantly making promises that they must know, and we must know, they can never keep. 

As my coworker alluded to, they often say one thing in conversation but do another entirely different thing when voting time comes and the rubber meets the road. 

And Lord, don’t they say what they think we want to hear! After all, one does not get elected by saying unpopular things, promising nothing, and caring about no one. 

As we have most clearly seen in the past week, when contentious issues finally hit the House or Senate floor, politicians are hard pressed not to vote the way their benefactors want them to vote. Notice I did not say constituents. I said benefactors. 

Votes, therefore laws, come out of the pursuit of tangible and recurring support, not from conscience, personal conviction, personal values, or the expressed will of the constituents. 

Now, before you think that I am writing this morning just to bash politicians (I am not) or that this is a political blog (it is not), let me ask you this. 

Do we not do exactly the same thing with our coworkers, friends, and family? How so? 

We are often not honest in our communications. This may be purposeful, or it may be purely unconsciously motivated. 

We think one thing silently and say another aloud or in public. 

We sugar coat things, thinking that we are saving someone from the awful, raw, hurtful, powerful truth. 

We do not hit problems head on, but dance around them, avoiding them, pushing them away, or even ignoring them. 

We do not see reality for what it is. We see things the way we wish they were, but sometimes that is so far from the truth it’s not even close. 

We are people pleasers in the worst possible way. We say things not out of love or caring, but out of our own agendas. 

We say things that we think will protect the feelings of another, all the while robbing them of that most pleasant human experience, honest communication. 

We trot out our public persona in the modern day digital public square, gilded and regal and opulent and grand, knowing in our hearts that the emperor has no clothes. 

What to do? How to correct this terrible miscommunication and the conscious or unconscious need to say one thing but mean or do another?

Again, lest you think I am being frivolous and trite, this is not easy. It is hard, strenuous, emotionally dangerous work. It is sometimes painful. It sometimes requires apologies, backtracking, redaction and conciliation. 

Try your best to be honest. Simple. Fresh. Extremely difficult to do when honesty is not mainstream, popular, or in your own best interest. 

Answer the question. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your ability to be glib. Answer the damned question. 

Say what you really think and feel, not what you think they want to hear. Believe me, I know how hard this is. I’ve been writing for decades. Blogging for  years. There are many people who like to read what I write and that agree with me. There are others that think I’m an idiot. That’s not my problem. If if have something to say, I write it. 

Say no. Say no. Just say no. 

That being said, say yes! More often, in more places, to more things. (Read Shonda Rhimes wonderful book Year of Yes)

Strive very hard to communicate, not just to talk. 

Strive very hard to understand first, then to be understood. 

Hit Me Up

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How do you like to be contacted? How do you contact someone else when you need to speak with them or pass along information that you think they need to have?

We live in an information age, and we have a plethora of choices when it comes to connecting with others. We can write letters. (Remember those?) We can send postcards from the edge. We can still send telegrams. Telegrams! (STOP) We can still fax documents. 

We can use instant messaging, direct messaging, email or texting. 

We can FaceTime or Skype. 

With these methods, we contact each other dozens, hundreds, even thousands of times each month

As a doctor in the mental health field, I have mixed feelings about all these direct messages, texts, emails and IMs. I love my technology, God knows I do, and I am one of us who uses my tech toys and tools hundreds of times each day. I keep up with family and friends, write posts to my blog, look at pictures, check the weather, read books, listen to podcasts and music, and watch videos. 

When it comes to my patients, however, I can see myself holding on to the more traditional forms of communication. Why the schism? 

With tech talk, I can hear (or see) what you say, but now how you say it. Let’s face it, psychiatry is a specialty of nuances. Your body language, tone of voice and even your breathing pattern can tell me a lot about what’s going on with you when you tell me that story or ask me that question. 

Face to face time tends to be equated with caring. Which had you rather hear when you are really ill: “Come on in this afternoon and we’ll see you”, or “I’ll have someone get back with you by phone before the end of the day”?

Rapid fire exchanges tend to lead to rapid fire decisions, not always the best thing. If I am being pressured by a nurse to answer an email she sent me yesterday about a medication change for a patient, I might not research my options as thoroughly as I otherwise might have. The nurse and the patient are focused on the rapidity of my response, not necessarily its content.

Missed, or mixed, messages, might never be seen, or seen too late. The worst case scenario, of course, would be an email or text or other communication about suicidal ideation that gets misfiled, deleted or parked for days without being seen. The patient might be reaching out for all the right reasons but never be heard. The results could obviously be disastrous. 

Privacy concerns are in the news. I mean, really. Who sees what you send? Who is in the loop? Who needs to know? 

It’s a new world with instant access, rapid fire conversations and the exchange of billions of thoughts every day.

What do you think about modern day methods of communication and health care?