Seeing people for real

Last night, a friend shared a story that really struck me. A waitress approached a family of three sitting at a table in a diner and asked what they would like to eat. The little girl replied, “I’ll have a hot dog and a soda.” The father quickly interrupted and emphatically corrected her. “No, she’ll have meatloaf, mashed potatoes and a glass of milk.” The waitress continued to look at the little girl and asked, “what do you want on your hot dog?” In response, the girl exclaimed, “she thinks I’m real!”

How often do we fail to see the people in our lives for who or what they are – real people with their own ideas, preferences and aspirations?

Recently, I saw a patient who the entire staff labeled, “difficult.” It is true that she had come in many times complaining. She didn’t like the result of her treatment, she wouldn’t follow the post-treatment recommendations and she didn’t seem to want to go away. Having never met her, I decided to enter the room with fresh eyes and no pre-judgments. What I saw was a women with a poor result who was frustrated because she wasn’t able to follow the recommendations that might have made her more comfortable and worried because she didn’t understand why she hadn’t had the same good result she had in the past.

So I wonder, what would it be like to approach each difficult situation or person with what is often called, “beginner’s mind” – an open mind that is willing to see what is present as if for the first time?

So here’s my plan – I’m going to spend today looking at each person I meet as if I am encountering them for the first time – to see who they really are, what they’re really interested in and what makes them unique. I’m excited about the new perspectives I’ll find and the deeper and richer interactions I’ll have as a result. I hope you’ll join me in this today – and maybe even for the rest of our lives.

About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
This entry was posted in effective communication in healthcare, first impressions, honesty in medical care, physician coaching, physician communication and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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