Now when you read the title, you may think that I’m talking about gossiping or being unkind about others when they’re physically absent. However, the intentions behind this article are positive and kind. My aim is for conversations, in specific circumstances, to be encouraging and respectful.
What we hear seeps into our subconscious and ends up feeding our thoughts, words and actions
What happens when the fruits of learning don’t come quickly?
Imagine this scenario. You know a child who’s trying to get their head around when to use a capital letter but they’re struggling. If you discuss this inability, every time you meet another parent, a family member or someone who works at his school, what’s going to happen? He’ll be present during some of these conversations! If he keeps hearing ‘he’s still struggling to know when to use capital letters’ or ‘he hasn’t managed to grasp capital letters yet’ or ‘he’s not using capitals in the right place’ and so on, how will he feel? Might he begin to believe it? Will he think he’s stupid and unable? Will he give up?
What happens when someone is physically unwell or they become less independent than they used to be?
Another scenario…someone you know was fit, physically able and independent. Something has happened to him. The ‘what’ doesn’t matter. It could be that they were in an accident, that they’ve caught an infection that has permanent effects or something else, but the result is that they can no longer do what they used to be able to do.
Imagine that you go and visit them and the person who’s helping to care for them is there. This may be someone you don’t know i.e. an employee or a family friend whom you know really well. You obviously want to know how he is, how he’s coping, if he’s taking the recent limitations in his stride or if he’s trying to fight them and so on.
Do you ask the carer all these things while he’s in the room? Will he have to hear the same ‘updates’, over and over again? Will he have to endure being repeatedly reminded that he can longer walk without assistance, or that he needs help to go to the bathroom, or that he’s not eating how much he used to? Of course, we think about the future a lot, so these questions may be followed by, what will happen next? Will he recover, how long before his condition accelerates and gets worse?
He may be feeling trapped, frustrated and helpless, and to hear these questions, assessments, summaries and predictions over and over again isn’t just unhelpful, I actually think it’s unkind, disrespectful and selfish. My curiosity or thirst to know what’s going on with his health shouldn’t be so important that I have these conversations in front of him.
Causes: it may be harmless, as opposed to, intentional
I understand that some people don’t do this on purpose. Questions pop up in their mind and they ask them. They may be pushed for time and want to get as much out of the visit as possible. Alternatively, they may have witnessed this type of questioning taking place in front of the patient, or the learner (in the first scenario), on a number of occasions and because ‘everyone does it’, they don’t stop to question it, and they do the same.
I don’t think that the cause is usually a disregard for the feelings of the person who’s struggling with learning something, going through a change in what they can manage, or the many other examples where this can apply. However, wouldn’t it be awesome if we were more mindful about what we say in front of others and the impact it may have on them?
Let’s talk behind their back
Make it possible to talk about these things when they’re not in earshot. On the other hand, when they’re present, let’s focus on positive things and raise their spirits. What do you think? Is it possible?