In August 2018, Krysta Wark of the Global Physio Podcast interviewed me. After the podcast I felt terrible, as if I had just burped 10 000 empty words onto a recording that could then be accessed by everyone, everywhere. My initial reaction was to draft a blog post about the experience.
That post was effective for an important purpose: it allowed me to get over an acute feeling of humiliation. A few days later I was able to listen to the interview and determine that it was not the entire interview that was terrible. But some of it was. Or at least, some of what I said was repetitive, circuitous, and quite frankly, difficult to understand. I realized that in painstaking answering Krysta’s questions, I was partially fulfilling the exact task that I was advocating: reflective practice. This realization caused me to revise my blog post to form the message that I actually posted (available here).
Despite the relief in seeing that much of the interview was not-terrible and that there might have even been some good produced by the terrible part, there remained a burning question: what in the world was the actual message I was trying to express in the most convoluted part of the interview?
In yet another series, I will try to answer that question. At very least, answer the question for myself. It would be a delightful bonus for me if others were interested in the answer to this question too!
So how bad were the bad parts of this interview?
To better answer that question, I transcribed parts of the podcast. One uncomfortably long excerpt is below. To make things easier for anyone interested in hearing what this actually sounded like, I have left the time stamps in the transcript. Yes, shamefully, I really did talk for that long.
The moment when you feel confused – or maybe dizzy – by the repetitive vagaries is the moment you will have understood the point that I am trying to make now. When you feel this, feel free to scroll to the bottom of the text in italics to find the concluding commentary:
Krysta: …these relationships and this power disadvantage happens pretty much everywhere. Would you agree with that?
Shaun: I do agree with that. Yeah. Now, now that being the case… that… again, how to say this? That, bearing in mind that these types of dynamics are so ubiquitous, I think that [pause]… it is important for us to be thinking about this constantly, but… I’m still figuring this out for myself right now, because I find that I can increase my stamina to think about these things. But if I only think about that, then I’m not doing anything else all day. Do you know what I mean? [Yeah, absolutely!] [22:27] Just as much as I want to put my drop in the bucket to change these dynamics that exist at a larger level, I’m collaborating together with… I’m working in these communities at the village level, and people there, when they talk to me, they are interested in issues of here-and-now. So, if I just talked to them and then retreat to try to influence international politics then I’m not honoring the relationships that I’ve built up at the community level. So sometimes I think that it is fair…to take some of these issues and to allow them to move further back in our mind to work on here-and-now issues. I think that the examples that were…that stimulated this discussion, of persons with disabilities in a village in Western Zambia, their positionality as compared to mine, there’s a really big gap in terms of access to resources and power, and what not, [23:29] that isn’t necessarily true with all of the interactions that I have with people on a daily basis here in Montreal. Do you know what I mean? Like, power and oppression dynamics are also present, like in my life here in Canada, I want to be thinking about this all the time but I especially want to devote attention to them when, when they’re a problem. Like, like when, when not thinking about them can lead to those situations being reinforced. Do you know that I mean? Like with respect to these dynamics that are at play in Zambia, I could conduct myself in a way where [pause] I end up maintaining the, the separation, where I end up perpetuating this dynamic of me having power and privilege as compared to people who don’t. [24:31] And, one of the ways in which this might be happening, is embracing the idea that providing people with help is a good idea… is, is a good approach. Without realizing that in these dynamics of help, that it’s the helper who gets to decide, by and large, what happens. So, by thinking practically, but by also questioning this…well…th, thi, this is the thing, is that these types of dynamics, they take a lot of thought, but not so much thought that, uhm, you end up being stuck without being able to actually achieve anything. So I suppose that for… this is the central message that has taken me awhile to babble through before I got to it, and… that is to constantly be working on a balance for being reflective and thinking about what we’re doing, while at the same time actually being practical and doing things. [25:32]
Whew. I get tired just looking at that text. Somehow, I managed to talk for nearly 4 minutes while barely transmitting a clear message. 🤦♂️ This is not a good example of effective communication. And yet, I the things I was trying to say then are still things that I would say are important now.
So how to communicate these effectively?
Listening to this podcast again, and now looking at the transcript, makes it possible for me to flag some of the intended messages and devote more time to them. But to do justice to these intended messages, they really do need more time. Over the course of this Canadian summer (June, July, August) I will gradually identify, clarify, and re-package these messages.
Having thought these through, I think I might be slightly more effective the next time I am interviewed. I hope, at least.