Coping with a Lack of Understanding
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a hidden disease. There are no rashes covering your entire body like the measles. There are no swollen areas that take shape like the mumps. Treatments have no profound, immediate impact like baldness from chemotherapy. There is no way for someone walking by on the street to know that you have this chronic medical condition.
In some ways, this is a benefit. In other ways, though, people not being able to see the impact of RA may create confusion, frustration and preconceived notions to run wild.
People in your life may have a hard time believing what they cannot see. They may doubt your diagnosis or the level of symptoms that you experience. This lack of understanding rheumatoid arthritis may start small, but over time, it can build to become a major barrier to having highly successful relationships.
Communicate for Control
Since RA is a hidden disease, you have complete control over all information related to your diagnosis. You get to decide who knows about it and who does not. You can choose to give them the complete picture or only the most necessary pieces of information. In this respect, you hold the power.
Using assertive communication in your conversations with others helps to ensure that your message is received in the best possible way. Here’s how:
Use Good Nonverbals
Before you can think about what you are going to say, think about how you are going to say it. Your nonverbals are made up of your movements, posture, eye contact and facial expressions. The rate, volume and tone of your speech are also part of your nonverbals.
Regardless of what you say, the conversation may be undone by poor nonverbals. Avoid slouching, looking at the ground, yelling or whispering, making extraneous hand movements and speaking too quickly.
To discover positive nonverbals, think about people that are natural public speakers. Study the mannerisms and methods they use to lure in people around them. Practicing in a mirror or with friends will help the process.
Another facet of communication that can derail a conversation before it leaves the station is poor listening. If you are too consumed thinking about your next response or the best way to “win” the exchange, success is impossible.
Slow down your mind and your responses to encourage better listening. Repeat and rephrase information given to you to ensure correct understanding. This is another situation where eye contact is helpful as it aids in your ability to listen.
Set a Goal
What do you want to accomplish with this discussion? How do you want the other person to respond? Goal setting places something on the horizon for you to aim towards. You may not hit your target, but a miss is much better than not having a target at all.
The best goals are specific and achievable. If you set a goal that is too far from your reach, you will be disappointed by your inability to accomplish it. Set small goals that all build towards an ultimate desire.
Next page: three more communication tips, plus the importance of knowing your stuff.