The Power to Choose

j-martin-kohe-the-greatest-power-that-a-person-possesses-is-the-power

It feels like forever since I sat down to write a blog, yet it has only been a week. This week I am flipping from midnights to days, back to midnights, and then back to days with a day off in between each. Needless to say, I am exhausted and have to remind myself what day it is!

The reason for my flipping shifts this week is due to a conference. The hospital I work for hosted a day long conference called “The Power to Choose.” The objectives of the conference were to (1) help build trusting relationships with patients and family, (2) help you make mindful decisions that help you foster enhanced patient, family and staff experiences and outcomes, and (3) illustrate and help apply approaches that improve outcomes through compassion and communication. One of my goals for this year was to gain more knowledge by attending these classes. It is difficult to do when you work midnights and most of these are during the day. My boss worked with me to make sure I got all my hours this week, and the conference was worth it.

The Power To Choose

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The daylong conference was geared toward health care professionals, and while many of the topics were directly focused on the healthcare setting, there were many things that I took away from the conference that apply to every day life. Those are the things that moved me to sit down and write. I chose to write about this because (1) I don’t want to forget these things and (2) maybe it is something that YOU can use in your daily life (or at work), too.

The conference opened with four employees sharing stories. Some were more emotional than others. The one that struck me the most was from a nurse who spoke of a male patient whose loved one was in the hospital and was always Googling and suggesting what needed to be done. She said it was like he “put on the boxing gloves” every time she walked in. It wasn’t until her son was diagnosed with a disease, that she began to see things from that patient’s point of view. Nurses and doctors were taking care of his “prized possession”, and it wasn’t until she shared his role that she really understood. She also wanted to put on the “gloves” and fight for what was best for her son. She had asked him to trust her because she “knew what she was doing” and now she was forced to trust the people caring for her son.

Next, there was a woman who works at the Cleveland Clinic. Her presentation was about communication skills that can be used when something goes wrong – in the industry we call it “service recovery.” In her presentation she stated “it all starts with empathy”. There is so much truth to this. Imagine how much better the world would be if we all showed a bit more empathy to each other!!

We live in a world where we relate to stereotypes. We judge a book by it’s cover, even though the famous quote says not to do this. I honestly don’t know if they showed this video when I started here or at another health system, but it was SO powerful! I encourage you to watch it all the way through and to reflect on it. Coincidentally, it comes from the Cleveland Clinic.

I realize that the video was geared toward health care, but stop and think about how this very well could have been a video shot on the streets of Everytown, USA! Think of the people you pass in the mall, or on the street, or at the grocery store. What is going on in their world today?

We were next shown a video that was a part of TED Talk. In the video, we meet a man named Alex Sheen. He tells the story of his father and explains that he was a man who always kept his promises. When his father died, he created “promise cards”. On the bottom of the card it reads “because I said I would.” Here is that video:

We then opened an envelope that had cards that read “because I said I would” and we were to write our own promises on them. Some people at our table wrote immediately, while a few of us took awhile to think of the promise we wanted to write. The idea is to keep you accountable. I, admittedly, am bad about following through with things. I am guilty of telling someone I will call them, and either get busy or forget. The card is a way to remind yourself of the promise. On my card, I wrote:

“I promise to stay positive and avoid negativity”

Quite a tall order, but I have now made that promise and I intend to keep it.

There was an extra blank card on my table. Because I like to make people laugh, I wrote something on it and walked over to where my boss was sitting during the break. I held up the sign which read:

“I promise not to drive my boss crazy!”

She laughed and snapped a picture. What makes this even funnier is the “official photographer for the event saw my boss and me and asked to take our pictures … with each of us holding up our signs. If any of my coworkers or fellow hospital employees see it – I REALLY did write a serious one!!!

promise

After lunch, Stephen Trzeciak, the author of the book “Compassionomics” spoke. His talk was full of data and statistics that illustrate the power of compassion. I plan on getting the book to read in the near future.

One of the things that he stated in his talk was that the data shows: “loneliness kills”. In connection with this, I stumbled on an article about a photographer who took pictures of people without their cell phones to illustrate how dependent we have become on them and just how lonely we are. Notice the loss of human connection in these pictures. Here is a link to the article:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3270660/Communication-problems-Photographer-removes-mobile-phones-images-couples-families-expose-just-addicted-technology-become.html

Dr. Shajahan

The highlight of the conference for me was the talk that Dr. Shajahan did on “Unconscious Bias”. I took more notes from this talk than all of them. Her talk was very interactive, informative, and fun.

The first thing she did was play us a video illustrating the McGurk Effect. Look it up. It’s actually very cool. Wiki says: The McGurk effect is a perceptual phenomenon that demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in speech perception. The illusion occurs when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound.”

There are videos on YouTube that illustrate this. Watch one with your eyes closed – you’ll hear one thing. Then listen to it with your eyes open and you’ll hear something else. It’s very neat.

She went on to talk about conscious and unconscious bias and how they can affect how we treat others. Another “exercise” was given. She showed us pictures of various people and we had to rate how “warm” and “competent” we thought they were only by the pictures! There was a picture of a guy who wore a scowl. Not very warm. He had a shirt and tie on, so he had to be competent, right? Well, we found out the guy gives 82% of his salary away to charity every year – I guess he was warmer than we thought! The cute little old lady she showed us actually turned out to be some really crooked and mean politician! What did I say earlier about judging a book by it’s cover???

So, how biased are you? Dr. Shajahan told us that we could find out by taking the Harvard Implicit Association Test (the IAT). I haven’t done so yet, but it is something I am going to do this weekend. Here is a link to the test:

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

She spoke of how in classical music, most musicians in an orchestra were male. When blind auditions were held, 5 times more females were included into the orchestra! There was a bias that men were better players.

In another exercise, she put up on the big screen four people. These people varied in race, education, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, status, with and without children, addictions and/or disabilities. Each was represented by a color. In the auditorium, four colors were held up. First, you had to go to the color of the person you’d most like to be. The room was pretty divided and people were asked why they chose that person. Then it got harder. Next we had to go to the person we’d least like to be – and explain why.

She spoke of ways to reduce bias.

  1. Individuation – seeing others as people. Individuate instead of generalizing. Go beyond race and stereotypes and get to know the person.
  2. Counter-stereotyping. Basically, counter the stereotype – cancel it out. The example she used was “Black people are dumb” to which you could counter with “Barak Obama or Martin Luther King were pretty smart.” See? Counter the stereotype.
  3. Increase the awareness of the type. Familiarize yourself with a group or race that you don’t know much about. For example, I don’t know much about Arabic culture. So I can ask questions of one of my coworkers, or take a cooking class that is geared toward Middle Eastern foods where I can interact with people who disconfirm the stereotype.
  4. Replace the stereotype. First you label the response or portrayal as stereotypical. Second, you evaluate it and think of how it can be avoided in the future. Finally, replace the stereotypical response with a non-stereotypical one.
  5. Perspective talking. Simple enough – put yourself in their shoes. Think of how you would feel if you were labeled as a stereotype. My Polish friend has a degree from the University of Michigan and is one of the smartest guys I know. He is nothing like the people portrayed in Polish jokes. Same with female blondes – they are not all dumb! How would you feel if you were stereotyped?

She wrapped up her talk with a fact – we all have biases. We need to be aware of them. She had a flow chart that I will attempt to recreate here:

SELF AWARENESS

WHAT? (We all have bias) ——-> SO WHAT? (It affects people negatively) ——-> NOW WHAT?? (We have the power to choose to do something about it!)

Watch this short video that was shared at the conference:

I LOVE THIS!!!

Words Matter!

Everything we do involves a choice. We choose what pants to wear. We choose what to eat. We choose what to say. Every day is full of choices and we have the power to choose to make a difference.

They wrapped the conference with some quotes –

“Follow hope – not fear”

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandella

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore says to Harry: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

In Conclusion

So what can you take away from this serious blog? I hope a lot. You have the power to make a choice today to make a difference. Show empathy and compassion to others. Choose to be aware of bias. Choose to not judge a book by its cover.

The other day, I drove through Tim Horton’s and was informed that my coffee had been paid for by the car ahead of me. Some stranger did that for me. It made me smile. It made me grateful. It made me want to do the same for the car behind me – which I did. There is so much hate in the world today. Share a smile today. Make someone feel good!

Maya Angelou’s quote has always been one I have held close to my heart. I used it as a reminder when I was doing my radio show, but it applies to daily life, too.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

At the conference, each person in attendance received a rock. On the rock was the word “Choice”. We were told to place it somewhere where we would always see it. The purpose is for it to be a constant reminder that we always have the “power to choose”. So do you.

choice

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