The Flip Side of Giving Advice

doctorStill thinking about giving advice, I flip my experience.

I go to the doctor.  I say, “I have an earache.”

She looks in my ear and says, “Your ear is red and inflamed. It looks infected.”

She asks me about my other symptoms and I say that I have had a bad cold for a week.

Then she says, “Here is a prescription for eardrops.”

I am left very unsatisfied…

In fact that is not what my own doctor would do.

She would say something like, “I can see that it is infected but I can’t tell where the source of the infection is.  It could be local to your ear, or it could be caused by infection from the cold that you have.  If it is a bacterial infection then antibiotics are indicated. But to establish whether this is a bacteria or a virus we have to do a lab test.  It is important to minimize prescribing antibiotics so that new strains of germs resistant to the antibiotic don’ t have a chance to develop. So what I recommend is that we start with some topical antibiotic in the form of ear drops while we wait for the lab work to come back to see if you have a virus.”

I get enough of her thinking process to be satisfied that the factors she is taking into account are the ones that I think are important.  I trust that her education and experience and skill lead her to make the best recommendation.  I don’t need to do all the thinking through myself: I am happy to rely on her skill and knowledge to do that work.  I trust that she has asked all the questions which could be relevant to do an assessment of what is wrong with my throbbing ear.

I understand and accept that all medical diagnosis is a process of trial and error: try the most likely thing first; if that doesn’t work, take that information and try something else.

We often end up agreeing to try X and if that doesn’t work after a period of time we will try Y.

And that’s the important part. I feel like a partner in the process.



Choose Not To Give Advice

alarm clockJeannie was a student in my adult literacy class who missed many days of class in the first month of term. So I began THE CONVERSATION.

Me: I like having you in class. You work hard, you have lots of interesting things to say, and that makes the class more interesting for me and everybody else.

Jeannie: Yeah, I like this class, and the work is not too hard for me.

Me: I think you can do well here, and go on to the next level.

Jeannie: I hope so.

Me: But I’m worried about your attendance. When you miss so much class, sometimes you don’t know where we are, or what we are working on. It’s hard for me to help you catch up, even though I know you can do the work. Continue reading

FLIP conflict into understanding…

Here’s another riff on Flip Your Experience, another strategy for working Across Difference.

A women’s centre in Ontario wrote to consult about a problem they were having dealing with a woman who was disruptive. The woman was a trans woman. This was my reply.

Dear Caroline

Thanks for your post about how to address the situation of a disruptive woman who is trans.

A challenge indeed. Continue reading

My Closet is No Different Than Yours

Another riff on our strategy for working across difference: Flip Your Experience.

Inspiring talk by Ash Beckham at TEDx Boulder. “I think we all have closets. Your closet may be telling someone that you love her for the first time, or telling someone you’re pregnant, or telling someone you have cancer, or any of the other hard conversations we have throughout our lives. All a closet is, is a hard conversation. And although our topics may vary tremendously, the experience of being in, and coming out the closet, is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done.”

She says that a closet is just a hard conversation. And that conversations are just hard–no comparing hard, harder or hardest.  She uses her own experience of coming out to begin to imagine the experience of others who are at a Dis/Advantage.

Thanks to Jenny for the link.

Rainbow Flag Flying

Rainbow flag and blue skiesA riff on our strategy for working across difference, Flip your experience.

Toronto School Board has decided that the rainbow flag can continue to fly at Stephen Lewis School, in spite of an on-line petition, to have it removed. (Story here)

A Toronto man complained because flying the rainbow flag is a “form of propaganda which creates an unwelcoming environment for straight individuals … promotes homosexuality and gives these individuals unfair and special rights.”

We wish that the 374 people who signed the petition would have taken a moment to flip their own experiences of feeling unsafe and unwelcome somewhere in their own lives where they are at a Dis/AdvantageIf they had flipped their experience, connected with the emotions they felt at those moments of Dis/Advantage, they might have joined the Gay-Straight Alliance which flew the flag in the first place.

Danny Arkadyev wrote on the petition website that he was one of the people who helped establish the flag at Stephen Lewis and “the intention was not to declare a queer/trans takeover and embellish the school in propaganda, but to let all students know that this school is a safe space and everyone is welcomed, including the people who put up this petition.”

“Special rights” are just rights.

Flip your Experience

cryingHe was a big man, wearing a muscle shirt with old-style tattoos running up and down both arms. He came out of the conference room wiping his eyes and reaching for his cigarettes. “God, I hate that crying,” he said to me, a relative stranger enjoying the summer evening. “But I guess you have to do it,” he added with a rueful grin.

I was at a conference of adult literacy students, and in the evenings students would gather in small groups to share stories about being hardly able to read in a society where everyone takes literacy for granted. Stories of secrecy and shame—a grandmother whose husband was the only person in the world who knew she couldn’t read, who had kept the secret for thirty-five years from her four children and her grandchildren, from her bosses and friends at work, from neighbours and people in her church, from storekeepers and bus drivers. Stories of loss Continue reading