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  • Writer's pictureKit Wisdom

Relating as humans, not just communicating

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

In a time where health professionals are rapidly moving their consultations online, our communication skills are being pushed front and centre. And yet potentially, we are not honestly facing the need to relate. As humans.

What have we gained and lost in our rather abrupt journey online?

Yes, we have an online space where we can connect with our patients.

Yes, we have a 'room' which is ideally protected from cyber-warriors trying to infiltrate private health-related discussions.

Yes, we have humans trying to multitask on the other end of the video call/phone-call, because they can. And because they have to. There is now work from home, bleeding into their home-from-home. There are kids, normally in school, grieving their mates, grieving their parents' attention, grieving their ability to run and be free. There are partners, spouses, friends, all figuring out how to be with each other. All the bloody time.

There are less moments of stillness.

Yes, we have access to our 'communication skills' - our ability to empathise, listen, validate, and hypothesise. These are now our 'new' go-to's in order to maintain a good working relationship.

Yes, we can get creative in building home-based exercise plans and bringing in our evidence-based expertise to create management plans.

Yes, we can keep showing up in an attempt to be an expert health professional caring for our patients in need.

And yet what is sorely missing, is our ability to relate. As fellow humans.

We no longer have a tangible space for people to step into.

We no longer have that first commute, a transition from meeting someone where they are and physically inviting them in to a new experience.

We no longer have a safe haven to offer weary bodies, confused minds, and painful hearts.

We no longer have a bodily presence, an energy, an acceptance, a whole person experience.

We no longer have the powerful magic of creating that third space with that other human; which speaks to moments that sometimes cannot be adequately described, that sometimes cannot be repeated; as they are not meant to be repeated in the same way, as there is always a slightly different way each time.

Because we are relating, not just communicating.

Relating by being able to hold space. Literal space. For that human in front of us. Literally in front of us. With us. Us with them.

Listening with our whole body. Listening with our eyes, our stillness, our heart. Witnessing their story next to them. Beside them. Being able to lean in, really hear them, really see them, being able to be human WITH them.

If we don't have that real human space online, how are we going to relate?

As a younger health professional, I always felt immense pressure to know best, to be the expert, to get it right.

Our technical knowledge and ability have always been favoured over our relational skills of humility, intuition, and openness to uncertainty.

And yet, despite having all the knowledge available in the world, we are still struggling to really help people in pain.

We work with unique humans within frameworks that don't necessarily make enough space for uncertainty and complexity. And we are complex beings!

There is another way.

It involves operating from a heart-space whilst using our fantastic evidence-based knowledge to approach complexity with humility. 

It requires the ability to delve into the heart and explore the challenging and uncomfortable side of life.

In our own lives first.

It involves being vulnerable to ourselves in ways that maybe we haven't been before. Ways that require introspection and guided reflection. It involves hard, painful moments of unlearning. It involves finding a way to not judge ourselves, to approach ourselves with an unconditional positive regard that we are so often told to have of others. It requires tapping into our own space of self-denial, of self-doubt, of self-criticism, of self-sabotage - and being open and unwavering in our quest to develop some compassion. For ourselves.

It involves highly regarded health professionals with huge brains of knowledge, who normally act from a podium of 'knowing', to not know. To let go of knowing.

To not know, from a heart-space, not from a head-space.

To start to relate to people from a different lens, that sees the humanness behind the human; a commonality first and foremost. As suffering comrades; rather than a patient that needs 'fixing'.

So we can then explore the uncomfortable and challenging side of life. Together.

This privilege fosters a sense of being in something together that can unfurl genuine human connectedness.

And I don't believe there is anything more required right now.

We need genuine human connectedness more than ever before.

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