So this weekend was Gay Pride 2010 weekend and here in Salt Lake City we celebrated despite the looming presence of the conservatives.
On a whim, since they had an AIDS testing tent at the Festival, I decided to have myself checked out.
It had been awhile since I had done it and it's always good practice I think to make sure one is OK in that department (one never knows right?) no matter how safe you are.
I did the prescribed mouth swabbing, got my card with my time to come back in an hour and went off to enjoy the rest of the festival with my friend Angel and her son and my goddaughter.
An hour later I return to the tent happily content in my inherent safety of not having AIDS.
Smiling, I give the lady there my card and she pulls my file. Glancing inside, the woman tells me to wait a moment because she needs to get a counselor.
My heart dropped.
All sorts of things raced through my mind, who was I not safe with, I thought I knew my partners well enough to not have contracted anything, etc.
Immediately, a gentleman introduces himself as a counselor and asks me to follow him to where we can stand under a tree and discuss things privately.
This isn't getting any better for me, and I'm totally in pre-shock mode.
We round the corner behind the tent and I see about 10-13 people all talking with counselors, I begin to feel slightly better (I mean they can't all have AIDS right?) and mentally try to calm myself down.
The counselor precedes to explain to me methods of transmission, (by the way visit here if you want to know more about AIDS or just have questions: http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/) asks me if I've been safe, etc. My responses are filled with wide eyed, no's and yes' with an overall feeling of "Hey I've been as safe as I can possibly be, what could have gone wrong?"
Eventually, the counselor tells me that I am fine and have nothing to worry about, the test came back negative.
What a relief.
I thank the gentleman for the information, and walk back to my friends secure in my own safety.
But that wasn't the case 10 minutes ago, and honestly would I have stayed the ten minutes if I had know I was fine, to hear the counselor's spiel of being safe in this day and age with AIDS. Maybe...maybe not.
While the means was perhaps over the top and shocking, it is effective in the end. Because for that brief moment, I got a taste of what it must feel like to know you may have a life threatening disease...of any type. Not just AIDS, but cancer and such.
I was transfixed, because in the end I just wanted to know.
I'm not saying this is an effective way that works all the time, but it's always effective to put yourself in the other person's shoes and can create empathy. Empathy, makes it easier to LISTEN. To be more inclined to not put up your blinders, and even if you get mad or are shocked by what just happened (I was kind of in shock right after that, post I'm OK shock). Eventually you're going to think about what happened, and consider making changes to your life, consider making changes to your business, consider making changes overall, depending on the message delivered.
It changed my view on things, I'm safe...but I can always improve that.