2010-01-01 / Columnists

Rockaway Walks Fitness Column

Communicate Any Changes
Commentary By Steven McCartney, IPO, HSW, MS

According to New York State data for 2003 there were 4 million cases of doctor diagnosed arthritis, and 21 percent of those with the disease were physically inactive. Becoming successful in learning how to live with arthritis one must reach a level of acceptance (of limitation and other changes that arthritis causes) and learn effective coping mechanisms. Some may require assistance in discovering new strengths, capabilities; in developing new hobbies and talents. However, you will have to develop skills for communicating your needs to others.

Removing barriers to communication is one of the easiest ways to improve communication. Removing these barriers starts with an understanding of common barriers – social/economic status, education levels, cultural customs (immigration and traditions), language, cultivation and learned help lessness. Multitasking (reading or driving while carrying on conversation), shyness, flirting, modesty, acknowledgment that body space has been violated (sometimes called interpersonal overload), intimidation, depression, anxiety, dislike and embarrassment and stereotyping can yield intense feelings of dislike and alienation (poor communication).

Differences between cultures and peoples are real (your health professionals may have different traditions) and can add richness/humor to the fabric of life. People everywhere have much in common, such as their need for affiliation and love, participation and contribution. When the external layer is removed, there are not so many differences after all.

Best practices for communication are to know what results you have in mind, ideally, from both the change initiative and the communication (keep log, calendar, and charts). Provide health professionals with information as soon as possible. Providing sufficient information will help you adapt to change, and it helps your support team to understand why change is necessary. Keep in mind that quantity is fine, but quality and consistency are crucial. It’s more important to have a consistent message based on solid arguments rather than repeating the same message over and over. Change takes time. It takes more time to get used to a new situation and to communicate new ways of adjusting. Change normally can be found in exercise physiology (working body) within 4-12 weeks. Focus on the achievements rather than on the failures! Use multiple communication pathways and vehicles. Provide additional information from articles, log, calendar and charts. Make use of peers. Peers that have experienced the same change and have a successful story to tell can be great advocates of your vision. They are trustworthy and that will have a great effect on the mindset of health professionals. Make use of good data and facts. Good data will support your message and help in your communication skills. Show statistics and best practices from peers.

Assertive communication begins with realizing that it’s all in your head. In situations where you feel you are not speaking your mind, ask yourself why and then ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I share my thoughts in a civil, clear manner?” The answers to these questions may very well be all you need to calm down and act assertively. Very often, people will see how silly their fears (anxieties) are and that the fears are rooted in their minds, not reality.

Let your intentions motivate your response. Be open and honest about your feelings. Allow yourself to take a moment and identify your beliefs, opinions, and intentions for sharing a thought. The desire to please others often gets in the way of a person’s thinking process and opinion formation.

Be specific and clear. Avoid assumptions (often the place good communication breaks down) or mixed messages.

Don’t fake. Don’t substitute smiling, nodding, or adopting other body language that suggests agreement just for the sake of keeping the peace. Disagree actively, but do it in a civil manner! Express disagreement with the idea, not the person — for example, “I have another opinion, which I’d like to explain.”

Ask for clarification. Request more in formation when asked to do something you believe is unreasonable. Perhaps the explanation will help you understand their question more fully and give you the confidence and assurance to say yes.

Always show regard for other people (avoid demeaning or blaming). Accept the feelings of others and try to understand them. Sometimes you need to think about what has been said; remember it is acceptable to use “I understand” or “I don’t fully understand, could you explain some more?” Acknowledge having heard the other person and the content (this involves the emotional level of problem). Ask for more information.

Paraphrase is an excellent tool when you want to know what someone meant (simply say to the person what you heard the way you interpret it). It’s important to practice a paraphrase in the form of a question rather than a statement.

Be tactful and courteous. You can do this by avoiding sarcasm and language that blames. Work at using humor and at the same time, know when to be serious. Learn to accept offers of help (acknowledge and be ready to make suggestions that help can be given).

Good communication will allow you to achieve self actualization within your life.

I will be presenting an ongoing Arthritis Workshop at Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater Senior League (2716 Healy Avenue) beginning January 5 (every Tuesday) at 11 a.m. The workshop is being co-sponsored by Healthy Lifestyle Changes, Inc. For questions or concerns, e-mail me at steven_mccartney@walkpro grams.com.

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