This is something that has been bothering me lately, it has made me angry with myself for missed opportunities. It has meant that when I have reached out at times, I have fallen at the first hurdle. I’m talking about falling for Leading Questions.
They deserve to be capitalised. They are repulsive things, tricksy and bait-filled.
For you to understand why they are so dangerous to me, you have to understand how I interact with people. Conversations are all mine-fields. I am concentrating so hard on deciphering your meaning, working on appropriate responses, double-checking my physical reactions are correct, and all the while looking like I’m not doing any of those things.
The less I know you, the harder all those things are. Many medical professionals are people I have met only once, and who I meet in an environment that is already taxing me to my processing limits.
When you are working so hard to understand what is being said, Leading Questions can feel like a cooling balm. They offer a solution without you having to think through the possibilities, they dangle a carrot in front of you, they offer you the answer that the person wants to hear, without you having to work for it. But it’s a trap.
The amount of planning I went through when asking to be referred for a diagnosis, just to avoid falling into the trap of Leading Questions, was immense. What if they said, “But of course, you don’t want a label, do you?” Would I remember to scream “Yes! Yes I do! I need to know!”
I had planned my mantra, “If I accidentally agree to a leading question I will follow it up with, ‘But I still want a diagnosis'”.
All that effort, but it worked and I managed, because I was prepared.
There have been many times I was not prepared. After giving birth many midwives and health visitors said things like, “You’re not suffering from any of these symptoms, are you?” And because I was barely verbal at those times, I always agreed that I wasn’t. Even when I was.
When I went to have my Joint Hypermobility diagnosed, the Rheumatologist said, “You have the painful joints and are definitely hypermobile, but you don’t have any of the digestive issues or palpitations of EDS, do you?” It had been so hard going to that appointment that I had no processing spare, and I was outnumbered in the room, so I agreed that I didn’t, even though I have both and they are my normal.
Compare that with good communication practises; the Health Visitor who asked how I was, and when I responded with the standard, “Very well, how are you?” (Which means nothing and can be so dangerous) followed it up with, “Are you really fine? Is that right?”
And then rescued me.
I do it all the time.
“You don’t mind if I just turn up, do you?”
Yes I do.
“It’s ok if I leave all this to you, isn’t it?”
No it’s not.
Most of the consequences are guilt and anger at myself. Most of the consequences are small annoyances. But there is the potential there for so much damage and danger.
Open questions are hard work, they send my brain spiralling off down every avenue, and I spread myself too thin by trying to fit down every avenue all at once, but leading questions are dangerous. If you think you know the answer then ask a closed question.
“Does it hurt?” Has only two answers, that’s more than comfortable. That’s a good closed question.
For me, “It doesn’t hurt, does it?” has only one answer, and it’s an answer you are asking for based on your assumptions about how I am presenting myself. I don’t present pain typically. I am an atypical pain-presenter. I will be quiet and blank and you will lead me to the slaughter. It won’t matter that you didn’t mean to. It won’t matter that your intentions were all good. Your poor communication will cause suffering.
Leading Questions are lazy and poor communication practise. Let’s choose a better way.