Three people were standing outside of his apartment. His voice was muffled, though it was clear that he had no intention of opening his door. One person recrossed his arms; this group of young staff had already spent about 15 minutes trying to persuade him to open his door.
I offered to try; they obliged. In less than 60 seconds, he opened his door, showed his face, and greeted me with warmth.
Their face masks did not conceal their surprise.
This is how I did it. I:
- read many books that describe different ways to listen and talk to people
- watched many people (professionals and otherwise) talk to other people (patients or otherwise) and stole successful strategies
- received and incorporated feedback from teachers who watched and listened to me talk to people
- sat through hours of watching videotapes of myself talking to other people
- have spent literally years talking to people who often did not want to talk to me
They didn’t see:
- the many, many errors I have made in trying to connect with people
- patients telling me directly how my approach was offensive and disrespectful
- that one time someone threw a shoe at me because I wouldn’t leave him alone
- the many times patients said nothing to me despite all my efforts to encourage them to talk to me
- all the times I said something stupid that ruined any rapport we had
- the times patients have yelled at me to leave because I didn’t respect their requests
- that other time when the guy in the wheelchair literally rolled out of his room at high speed to get away from me (and I couldn’t find him anywhere on that floor in the hospital)
- the variety of insults I have received (and will continue to receive) from people for reasons both valid and invalid
They also did not realize that:
- luck played a large role in this outcome
- the clinical relationship I have with him is different from the relationships they have with him (i.e., to him, I am novel)
- I have been doing this sort of work for many more years than they have
- I still consider everyone my teacher and continue to learn from them all
- they can and will learn skills to achieve similar outcomes in the future
Now that winter is upon us, ducks called Barrow’s Goldeneye have arrived in Puget Sound. Sometimes a male and female swim together as an isolated pair; sometimes a flock of 10 to 20 ducks will paddle around the piers.
They look serene while gliding across the surface of Sound. We don’t see their legs and feet constantly pushing against the water.