What I Know for SureMelissa C Palmer, LCSW, ACHP-SW, APHSW-C, JD Oct 26, 2021
I have been reading Oprah’s “What I Know for Sure” the past few weeks before bedtime, and last night’s passage resonated with me. Her words ring true during my transition to the UCH palliative care team and facilitating assessments on communication for MSPC students. Whether we are talking with our patients, professional colleagues or our loved ones, we are most connected when we are able to listen to one another and not just hear the words. Life is about finding meaning, and quality relationships can be as meaningful as we can get as human beings.
Often in the medical community, we can get carried away with “fixing”, and all the while patients and their loved ones walk away feeling dissatisfied and possibly confused about the big picture. The 10- minute visit model that seems prevalent in primary care is a transaction, not a connection. Silence is also something that can make providers uncomfortable, but that silence is permission for the person talking to really say what is on their mind rather than what they think we want to hear. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own way and let the patient lead.
The following is the passage from Oprah’s What I Know for Sure:
‘The key to any relationship is communication. And I’ve always thought that communication is like a dance. One person takes a step forward, the other takes a step back. Even a single misstep can land both people on the floor in a tangle of confusion. And when you find yourself in that position – with your spouse, your colleague, your friend, your child – I’ve found that the best option is always to ask the other person, ‘what do you really want here?’ At first, you might notice a little squirming, a lot of throat clearing, maybe some silence. But if you stay quiet long enough to get the real answer, I guarantee it will be some variation of the following: ‘I want to know that you value me’. Extend a hand of connection of understanding, and offer three of the most important words any of us can ever receive: ‘I hear you’. I know for sure your relationship will be the better for it.”
Winfrey, O. (2014). What I Know For Sure. New York: Flatiron Books, p. 55.