Working on television for over 25 years I have learned to talk shorthand, or speed talking, or whatever you want to call it. On talk shows or news programs I would have anywhere between 2-to-6 minutes to get my message across. One segment with a head to toe makeover might get 4-to-5 minutes if I was lucky. The top ten beauty tips, most likely 3-to-4 minutes! I could get an entire season of fashion tips into a 4-to-5 minute segment, and that’s with a host interrupting! An interview for a news program might get a minute or even seconds. They often let me talk a long time with the camera rolling during the interview but when it gets to the edit room they have the timers going and I promise you it will be cut down to the crucial facts. And the more popular the show the less time allotted to each segment.
One of my favorite TV producers taught me the importance of making issues personal. “When you talk about hundreds of people being displaced because of flooding it’s a shame. When you talk about how the flood impacted one family it becomes a tragedy.
So when I decided to be an advocate for arthritis, a far more complex issue than fashion, I found it much harder to convey the seriousness of arthritis, the difference in the many types of arthritis and the fact that is near and dear to my heart, the kids and teens with arthritis. How can I explain osteoarthritis vs. rheumatoid arthritis vs. juvenile arthritis, versus, versus, versus…
I understand all the different types of arthritis and they are vast, but trying to get a non-arthritis person to understand or become interested is a major challenge. I watch their eyes glaze over when I start in on the autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis. First what is autoimmune, second what is rheumatoid and third, oh, yes, my grandma had that one, arthritis.
And then the inevitable pinky finger comes up as your listener holds her little finger with the bend at the joint and says, “I get it, I have arthritis too,” and indeed she does, but ask her the difference between rheumatoid and osteo and she rolls her eyes up in her head and shrugs her healthy shoulders.
The only thing worse is telling someone that kids get arthritis. Most look at you as if you are making this up, maybe for sympathy or attention? “Yes, babies have it, toddlers have it, and kindergartners and teenagers have it.” “Can’t they take Bayer?” is a common comeback, as if that is the answer for all arthritis. Mention cancer drugs for arthritis? They think you are crazy. “Do you go to a cancer doctor?” will often come up. When you say, no I go to a rheumatologist they usually say, “What’s a rheumatologist?” and then the questions and confusion starts all over again. It is a vicious, frustrating and disheartening circle. I have tried the in depth explanation and the technical statistics but I see their eyes wander off about a minute into the conversation.
And yet without people outside the arthritis community understanding there will never be the reality of the seriousness attached to this disease.
So how can we get the three major types of arthritis across to the public? And how can we do it in under a minute? Because that is about the length of focus you have with someone when you talk about health.
Set your phone or kitchen timers and let’s go…all three in under a minute.
Here are some key points:
Osteoarthritis your joints wear out and rub together causing severe pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body mistakenly attacks your own joints. The inflammation can damage not only your joints but your organs as well.
Juvenile Arthritis often has another word in between the juvenile and the arthritis like inflammatory or rheumatoid but basically it mirrors rheumatoid arthritis in adults.
Most likely you wouldn’t be talking about arthritis unless you or someone in your family has it and this is one time when having arthritis will help you communicate because you can make it personal.
So taking my basic information and my personal experience, here is my one-minute explanation.
“I thought arthritis was what you got when you were old. 24 years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease I had never even heard of. I am one of the lucky ones who went into a research program that led to remission but before that I learned the hard way how serious rheumatoid arthritis can be. It’s not just an achy knee or elbow, it’s an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the joints, causing damage to not only the joints but also some organs. My father had rheumatoid arthritis and my Grandmother had the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis where you joints simply wear out from heavy use such as sports or aging. But for me the most heartbreaking of all the over 100 types of arthritis is juvenile arthritis. I never heard those words before either. In the US alone over 300,00 children from infants to teenagers suffer from this autoimmune disease that robs them of their childhoods. Arthritis is not a disease of just the old.”
55 seconds!! 6 mentions of arthritis! And personal!
Because I made it personal and didn’t go into too much detail, nor talk about it for 30 minutes, nor confuse people with all the different types of arthritis I got the main points on the table. And hopefully because I made it personal people will ask me a follow up question, and that too needs to be short and concise. My rule with friends and family is we talk about health for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Anything longer and you have lost your audience and your impact.
Is it easy to speak shorthand about something that invades and often devastates your life? No, there are so many stories and so many issues and so many types of arthritis and those of us with one form of the disease or another have a lot to say. And we want people who don’t understand, whether it is our legislatures on Capitol Hill, or a National TV program to listen, really listen and understand. The key to that is the shorter and more concise we can make our point, the more people will listen.
Understanding, compassion and most important, awareness for arthritis…with Speed Talking!