This is the latest in the Speaker Academy series, which started here. The series is addressed to patients and advocates who basically know how to speak on a subject but want to make a business out of it. I’ll try to be clear to all readers, but parts may assume you’ve read earlier entries.
I co-presented Saturday at the 15th annual Conference for Global Transformation (CGT), a talk that was very different from any other I’ve done, because the context wasn’t healthcare per se – the context this time was, well, global transformation. This year’s theme is “Listening for Workability.” I haven’t discussed it much, but this company’s principles form the foundation of my approach to communication, which is a big part of this series.
This was a very short talk, because after my co-presenter (neurologist Dr. Rochelle Frank) spoke from her perspective, we got into discussion with the whole group, to see what they see as newly possible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many hands go up – because that’s what this event is about: new possibilities.
(I’ve padded out the slides here, for more clarity as a standalone slide deck. Dr. Frank and I were greatly assisted in planning this session by another clinician, nurse practitioner Lorin Bacon.)
Nerve alert: this advice may not be easy to hear, especially for people who’ve been harmed or have suffered great loss, as many of our patient voice friends have been. But I implore you to review #6 in this series: What could be said that would make any difference? There isn’t much point in saying anything else, is there?
That can be hard to hear when your soul wants to scream “This is wrong!!” I’m not saying you should suppress what your soul wants. I am saying, if you want to transform how things work today, consider thinking about it in a transformational way.
The message of this brief talk was: “First, get into their world. See life as they do; then point out something new.” If you accomplish that, you’ve altered how they view things … and that is the start of how culture change spreads.
I’m not saying it’s easy.
Seeing life as another does is no small task; Thoreau said “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” The Cleveland Clinic used that quote to start its enormously powerful video Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care, which has over two million views, and its sequel (less-well-known but more dramatic), which flips the question around, pointing it directly at their own employees.
But empathy cuts both ways: we want providers to empathize with us, and we can benefit by empathizing with them. Pat Mastors, founder of the wonderful Patient Voice Institute, is superb at this, even in the worst of situations; she’s a master of empathy, of emotional intelligence. You can read about one of her own experiences (and success) in this post from 2013.
Read this op-ed in the New York Times last fall about physician suicide. If you want someone to see things as you do, it’s a really good idea to start by seeing things as they do. That can be the start of real partnership.