Friday, 27 November 2015

Fairy logic - how to avoid the understanding gap

I recently realised that my medical advice is not as good as it could be.  I tell parents and young people what will help their treatment have the maximum chance of success, but I do so without always thinking about how the advice might fall into an understanding gap.  From now on I am going to try to apply fairy logic whenever I give my explanation of what to do next.

Fairy logic?  Let me explain: In popular mythology, fairies are often need permission from people to do things.  As a result they look for opportunities to interpret what is said to them in inventive ways.  For example if a fairy wants to enter your abode, they need permission.  If they are told, "You can't come in my house" they may see the loophole and go into the garage instead.  In consultations, I think that this misunderstanding of convenience happens often, albeit unintentionally.

For example, with eczema treatment, I will advise that soap should be avoided.  I should probably include shampoo and shower gel in that to avoid misinterpretation.

Other examples include

  • "Stopping milk" when cow's milk protein allergy is suspected (should be stopping milk and anything containing milk, milk products like cheese or having these as an ingredient)
  • "Smoking in the house is associated with chest problems in children" (should be that having a smoker who lives in the house is associated with chest problems in children.  Avoiding smoking in the house and car is good, but quitting is better.)

I know that time is at a premium when there are lots of patients to be seen.  However to avoid that misinterpretation you have to be specific and be comprehensive.  If you have examples of circumstances which benefit from this, why not post them in the comments section?  I suspect that there will be plenty of times that I am not aware of when I need to apply fairy logic to avoid the gap.

Edward Snelson

Disclaimer: I am largely basing my knowledge of fairies and their way of thinking on the writings of Eoin Colfer, but I'm not even sure he's ever really met a fairy.

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