A few months ago, I had a very important appointment with a Neurologist to discuss further diagnostic procedures and future care. I had had a very disappointing encounter with a previous Neurologist despite the continued support of my General Practitioner who was convinced of the course of action necessary.
I was meeting this new doctor, and at first, as I contemplated speaking with him, I was feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety. Would he believe me? Does he know about CSF leaks? Will he dismiss my symptoms? Will he think I’m grasping at straws? I was asking myself any number of questions and continuing along with fictitious conversations that inevitably went sour. When I closed my eyes, there would be my constant dialogue, sounding assured at the outset and then slowly creeping into unproductive, circular discussions that availed me of nothing in the end. What was I going to do? The appointment date was looming closer.
I decided to Change My World.
Whenever I have a job interview, a big challenge, a public speaking event, or presentation, I Change My World. So, why not apply the same idea to a conversation that I know is coming up?
The Set Up:
For a week to ten days before the meeting with the doctor, every morning, I would state out loud my intentions for the conversation. I would utter phrases such as: ‘Dr. G will meet my words with his natural curiosity and desire to help’, ‘Dr. G. will look at me with an open mind and an open heart’, ‘I will be calm and eloquent and speak in a way that ignites Dr. G’s desire to heal’, ‘My words flow out of me easily and succinctly’… I had a list of about ten things that I would say to myself each morning in anticipation of my meeting with the doctor.
When my thoughts would drift throughout the day to those negative conversations that spiraled out of control, my new job was then to stop, breathe deeply until I could calm my mind, and utter out loud one of my key statements to improve my outlook on the encounter.
In addition to daily positive statements, I imagined myself at the encounter. I saw, in my mind’s eye, that I was calm, cheerful, smiling, intelligible, vulnerable, and open. I saw myself believing that Dr. G. was listening intently as I was educating him about the issues that were important for my diagnosis. I imagined points of skepticism that Dr. G. might have and how I would handle them with quick reference to facts and evidence from my reading. Being prepared was essential for my encounter, I knew this, but focusing intently on my ability to retrieve information when I needed it was where I had my doubts.
When the day of my appointment came, I knew I was as prepared as I could be. I cannot say that I completely turned over my fears and let them go….I know I had some fear in there. I did know that my mental state and my open-heart were ready for the encounter. When I met Dr. G, it went better than I even imagined! He was open and receptive, he was caring and curious, he was teachable and intrigued, he was exhilarated by the challenge of something not frequently seen in his practice. He was hooked!
Now, you may say that it was all just due to the kind of doctor that Dr. G is…that is a big part of it, I am sure. He is a very caring and concerned physician who clearly is dedicated to patient care. Our conversation, however, had many times in it where I could feel he was relying on the old standard information and when presented with a new perspective (mine) he had to rethink things quickly. He clearly would have stuck to his old standards had I not been well-informed. He did a stellar job!
I firmly believe that my SET UP for the encounter was also crucial. At no time did I become frustrated. Never did I feel fearful and upset that I would not be heard. By opening my heart each morning and trusting that Dr. G. would hear me…and I mean really HEAR me…I know I spoke in such a way that he could do nothing but approach me with an open-mind and an open heart. You see…my affirmations did nothing to change Dr. G…but they did everything to change how I treated him and myself with the most delicate and thoughtful respect.
A smile in my voice at all times meant that he never felt the need to shut down (or worse, shut me down). An open yet calculated assurance on my part meant that he could let any bravado go and allow the new information to come in for consideration. He did counter my thoughts on many occasions but often just stating a new piece of information as a question allowed him the space to believe that we would both be looking for answers together (not that I thought I knew more than he did).
Fear so often comes out as anger and frustration. Conversations based in fear so often go awry. Setting yourself up for a positive, open-hearted discussion means you can feel the fear but know that love will take over…and that can change the world around you.
I wish you all the success you deserve to Change Your World around you when faced with difficult diagnoses or decisions and that you can find you true voice when you need it the most.
I would love to hear your strategies for meeting important challenges and wish you all the success in communicating what is in your heart during difficult encounters in the medical world or any field where you find communication to be an obstacle.