As my time at the British Lung Foundation comes to a close, I look back at one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the past year and how I hope to build upon that in this next exciting stage of my career.
This year I fell in love.
It was unexpected, fully requited and totally life changing. Yes, this year I fell in love with public health; and it’s taken me on a journey of self-discovery and given me a sense ‘purpose’ that I never thought I would feel.
What strikes me most about public health, and more specifically about working in public health communication, is the power of conversation. I love talking, it’s one of my favourite things to do, but this year I truly learnt the value of listening before you speak. And I mean really listening.
You can only do that by getting to know a person, by building a relationship with them and getting to know them before you even get to talking about the main purpose of your conversation. After all, a conversation is an exchange of words and in any fair and worthwhile exchange you will only get back the value of what you put in; meaning that if you invest the time in getting to understand a person and ask the right questions, they will naturally reward you with an equally considered and meaningful answer.
I was fortunate to be given the time to do this, to really understand where a person was coming from, what has shaped them and how that impacts their current situation. And in all honesty, not only is it fascinating and awe inspiring, but it’s also far more rewarding and valuable than any statistic or anecdotal fact you could reel of in a heartbeat.
Getting to know someone can’t be a tick box exercise. Answering a set of limited or predetermined questions is great for telling you what Disney character they are, but it won’t tell you what nourishes their soul or what gets them out of bed in the morning against all odds.
Hearing so many unique, inspiring and insightful stories over the last year has truly been one of the greatest privileges of my life; and the work and the changes that I have been able to create as a result of it are some of my greatest achievements.
Statistics are incredibly useful and research is vital to progress, but it’s the stories behind them; the stories that inspire them or create the need for them, the lived experiences of the people that make up that statistic or benefit from that research that truly make us understand the value and importance of the work we do.
This week I move on from the place that opened the door to this incredible world that I’m so very honoured to be a apart of, and I get to take the skills, the experience and the compassion I have learnt and translate it onto an even bigger stage. I have made so many friends and amazing connections, spoken with brilliant and brave people who have done and continue to do remarkable things. I’ve learnt what sort of leader I want to be in the future which has helped redefine the person I am now. And as I have said, I have completely and utterly fallen head over heels in love with public health, almost to the point of obsession!
I am so excited for the new challenges that lay ahead of me; and what I am most passionate about exploring is where the power of conversation can take me next; the new opportunities it will bring, the discoveries it will make and the changes that can be made as a result of it.