How I see it …. a matter of perspective

I thought that I would continue along the theme of assumptions we make and judgements associated with these along with a narrative about resilience being a rollercoaster ride.

This reflection stemmed from an interaction with a healthcare professional today. I saw her with mild but relentless eye pain. She asked me how things were going and how my last specialist appointments went and about my MRI results. I relayed, the results, discussions and a plan of having eye surgery on the next available theatre slot for this (January) in an attempt to preserve my remaining vision. I proceeded to explain the surgery, risks, benefits and success rates related to my conditions as well as what I was putting in place to promote the best possible outcome based on the research I had read. For this, I got the label “science geek”. At the time this seemed like an excellent complement, but in hindsight, my response was rather superficial and detached.

When I got home, I recalled my blog post last week, where a member of the public told me I was “amazing” for managing to walk around a rubbish bin that was on the footpath. At the time, I was a little taken aback and quickly pushed this aside as something simple and applied own assumptions of what I considered amazing, such as getting my PhD, being published, loving my job and passing on my knowledge. 

This not only prompted me to analyse an earlier conversation with a healthcare professional but also made me rethink my reaction to the difference in perspective about success. 

The earlier conversation covered planning my needs post-surgery as I will not be able to see much (which will prolong the uncertainty around the success for some weeks after). In this conversation, I was asked what I needed help with. On face value, this question seems simple, however, even as an experienced nurse, I found that I wasn’t really sure what I would need. I could guess and as a result, kept unconsciously relating things back to how I see now and not what it will be like post the surgery. This included thoughts of I can do that, I don’t need help with that or someone might need assistance more, or there is always someone worse off, which are my go-to responses.

It wasn’t until she used more concrete terms and bluntly pointed out that she thought that I needed “urgent” referrals for daily tasks that I began to realise this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Changing my mindset started with being asked the following two questions: 

  • Do you think you could make toast safely when you can’t see the toaster?
  • Have you ever made a cup of tea without any sight?

To both of these questions, I paused and then replied – “I don’t know”. It was not until this moment that I began to realised practice, tips, tricks and techniques were required before the need for them. As a nurse, it is logical to forward plan and assist others to prepare for their recovery as much as possible. However, applying this to myself as a patient who had not previously experienced total blindness was not as easy as I initially thought.

She then asked about how I would get to followup appointments and even after the above realisation my automatic problem-solving response was, I will get a taxi. Then she asked me if I had thought about how I would get into the building from the taxi on my own with no vision? To which my automatic response was that I already use a long cane and will be OK, but the truth was that I had not thought about it until that moment. What had not sunk in was that I use the cane with some vision, not with no vision, and these were two different experiences requiring different approaches.

Perspective

At this point, I noticed my thinking was as a nurse, not a patient. My mind was speeding through multiple potential problems and analysing these to find the best solution. As someone who is usually independent and confident in what I do, this conversation and analysis made small tasks such as making toast uncertain and seem impossible.

In fact, a more robust approach would have been, turn off “nurse mode” and slow down, start asking questions to gain a better understanding of what to expect and then formulate a plan. 

Yes, Shayne – if you ever read this – we discussed this just today in another context.

Writing this has shown me that we all make different assumptions and what we do with these is the important part. Perhaps I will now need to start changing my focus so that the smaller tasks such as making toast and navigating a rubbish bin on the footpath are seen as a success.

How I see it …. making assumptions

Over the last week or so, I have been unwell with very little voice. As a result, I have engaged less in conversation and responses have been more deliberate and reflective. What has become apparent is that others seem quick to judge and assume what I am thinking or feeling when I converse less. This, in turn, has led me to consider my usual mode of operation.

Usually, I am a person who thinks fast, in a detailed manner, and on multiple tangents simultaneously jumping from one idea to another in a solution focussed way. I analyse responses fast, and as a consequence, often find myself changing my opinion mid-sentence and based on the ongoing discussion. I find this a very effective way of clarifying my own decisions and thoughts in the moment. However, this relies on others being able to follow, interpret and understand my thought processes.

The assumption I traditionally made is that others can follow my tangents and thoughts. However, a colleague reminded me today that not everyone could follow my thinking, which led me to consider the impact that my way of being has on those around me.

When making important decisions, I choose to discuss my thought processes with a person that I trust. Doing this assists me to clarify my thoughts and stops me from rushing into any decision. I highly value this debate and usually use it to augment the choice I ultimately make.

Today, after my colleague suggested others can not always keep up with my thinking, I began to wonder how others interpreted my thought processes and discussion. For example, the need to discuss decisions could be, as intended, looking to clarify thoughts; however, it could also be interpreted as being unsure or not confident.

What this made me remember is just how much humans make assumptions about others without fully understanding the context. Not all assumptions are negative; to the contrary, our assumptions can also have a positive effect. The critical point here is not to stop our assumptions and judgements, but to consider how we evaluate and process these to interact with the world around us.