Keeping an open mind

Conversations About Asthma: The "Clean Slate"

Recently, I joined my friend Christopher Snider as a guest on his podcast, Just Talking, to talk asthma, ADHD, and the 2017 Stanford Medicine X conference. You can find the episode here. All topics I enjoy exploring, I settled into my office with a reheated pumpkin spice chai latte, picked up after a doctor’s appointment, and got behind the mic to join Chris for “a free-flowing conversation with purpose”1.

The "Clean Slate" mindset gives a chance for us to express what it really is for us

Something you may not expect, is that I enjoy when people are, or allow themselves, to be a clean slate about things like asthma and ADHD. These two diagnoses that I live with in tandem come surrounded with many misconceptions, poor media representation (especially asthma), and general ignorance-wrapped-in-understanding from the public as a whole. By “ignorance-wrapped-in-understanding”, I mean that people genuinely feel they understand these diagnoses, and what they entail—except they actually don’t. For people asking questions about me or my asthma experience, or asthma in general (and severe asthma in particular), I am happiest to speak with a “clean slate” type of person—any day of the week, month or year. These people either genuinely do not know much about asthma (or ADHD), or choose to briefly clear these thoughts or biases from their minds to allow me, as a person living with these things, the space to pontificate freely—in some cases, allowing their own perspectives to be changed on a subject. I would rather a person know absolutely nothing, or be in the mindset of being taught if they are asking questions, than have to try to reset misconceptions or miseducation that a person has had formed into their brain for a long time.

Asthma biases

The things Chris and I discussed are not new issues—actually, many of them are the same ones I read in this European Respiratory Journal article not 24 hours after recording: namely, how people attain their own information and biases about asthma—media biases, biases of healthcare professionals, and “trickle-down biases” that form the basis of beliefs about asthma among the general public 4—things I and many others with asthma and other health conditions speak, write and commiserate about all the time. Chris and I discussed many of the things that were echoed by my reading of this article not a day later: that asthma is not anxiety—that asthma is physiological and not psychological; that asthma is not just a disease of the movie-portrayed “chubby nerds” who need their inhalers when they become anxious; that asthma is a common, misunderstood lung disease of extremely variable presentation and severity.2

This “clean slate” mindset, this openness, is what I found so refreshing about talking to Chris, as well as his ability to articulate questions that were super on-point and relevant—in the space of a free-flowing conversation. It’s also what makes his podcast so enjoyable to listen to. I am all up for healthy debate, but, what if more people chose to be “clean slates” when talking about asthma, ADHD, or other health issues? About anything? After all, your experience is not wrong.

What if all conversations could be this refreshing, and start with a "clean slate"?

I think they can be. If we were all to defer judgement, which is the first rule of design thinking4, I think this is possible. And it does not just apply to the person we are trying to educate, nor just the person, or people, across the table (or Internet connection) from us, but even more greatly to ourselves as well. If we just sit back and really take in the perspectives—or confusion, or misunderstandings—of others, without judgement or jumping to conclusions, we can provide our own perspectives or experiences, in context to their current knowledge, or lack-there-of. Even if we think we are right (or even if we have evidence that we are), we have to learn to ask good questions to learn why a person believes what they do, before we can even have a hope of reframing that mindset.

With positivity.

It starts with us being a clean slate, too. or is not affiliated with Christopher Snider or his work or the podcast"Just Talking".

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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