Being Person-Centered: Defining Normal

The definition of “normal” has always confounded medicine. It takes on a variety of roles and meanings and is interpreted by each of us differently.  “Normal” might mean the ideal, the optimal, the most common, the average, the expected, the evenly distributed.

When speaking with a client, we may not even be sure which meaning we’re choosing or implying when we say normal.  They may even interpret what we say with a different meaning. This conundrum may seem insignificant but it highlights the limitations of language when we communicate with clients. Are there other words that can be misconstrued in similar ways? Most definitely. 

Much of the regular language we use with clients is misinterpreted because words are defined a bit differently by all of us. A solution is to take care with the “normal” language we use, and focus on checking understanding and interpretation (“what does that mean to you” or "“can you explain that back to me in your own words”) rather than simply asking “does that make sense?”