In the summer of 2009, the kids and I drove from Colorado to New Hampshire with a stop at the Canadian Niagara Falls. As we drove across the border, an official leaned out of her booth and asked the typical questions – Where are you coming from? How long are you staying in Canada? Where are you going?
Then she asked, “Do you have any weapons in the vehicle?” to which I answered, “No.” We drove on. A minute later my daughter asked, “Did she say ‘Webkinz’?” with panic in her voice. I assured her that no, the attendant had asked about weapons, not Webkinz, and her approximately seven stuffed creatures surrounding her in the back seat were safe from confiscation.
For whatever reason this little miscommunication reminded me of how easy it is to mis-hear something at a diabetes visit. It’s also easy to say something that can be misinterpreted. For example, when a health care professional says, “how’s your control?” that could mean
- how are you doing (physically, emotionally)?
- what are your numbers doing?
- what’s your A1C?
- are you taking care of yourself?
- do you need anything from me?
or something else completely.
From the patient perspective, “how’s your control?” could be interpreted as
- what are your numbers?
- how successful are you at managing your diabetes?
- are you a good person?
- how good a job are you doing at keeping all this together?
and so on.
Just like my daughter’s concern about her Webkinz, we have a tendency to hear what we’re worried about. If we’re worried about being judged, we’re likely to hear judgment. How amazing will it be when diabetes communication is simple, straight-forward and judgment-free with no cause for worry? I believe it can happen.