Thinking Things Through: August 2007


Lesson From A Fracture

Diane Grigg: Speaker, Coach, Mediator
Specializing in Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution
You can be a better listener! Call me at 847-965-8970
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At the end of March, I lost my footing and fell on my open hand when I walked over what I thought was a dusting of snow. It was more than snow—it was ice—and the fall resulted in two fractures to my right wrist. The breaks were serious enough to warrant a cast, which I wore for seven weeks. Four of those weeks I endured a long cast that extended upward over my elbow—requiring me to keep my arm at a ninety-degree angle and my “fingers to the sky” (doctor’s instructions).

In the big scheme, this was certainly not the end of the world! Yet for a self-employed, right-dominant, recovering perfectionist who has never faced major injury or illness, it was a pretty big deal! As I learned to manage with my left hand and embrace all the life lessons that emerged, I was also willing to describe the challenges and the triumphs of life with a cast.

Among the important lessons acquired during my healing was one about listening. From the day of my accident and continuing for multiple months, I was blessed with assistance and attention from family, friends, and colleagues. My next-door neighbor was a shining example. She routinely asked how I was feeling and always acknowledged the difficulty of managing everyday tasks. Even behind my glasses, she noticed my watery eyes the day I returned from the doctor’s office with news that the transition from long cast to short cast was delayed, and gently offered this beautiful thought: “Every trip to the doctor must be very emotional for you . . . a reminder of everything.” She really understood what I was experiencing, and I knew it!

Not everyone “got it.” On multiple occasions, I was told that my fractured wrist was “no big deal,” and was then offered the memory of a first-grade playground accident that resulted in a broken arm or the detailed history of a sprained ankle that occurred 40 years ago during a teenage softball game. As I listened politely to these stories (even as I felt a little dismissed), I was reminded that—at its best—listening is about taking cues from the speaker. It is not about comparing; it is not about responding with a similar story (something even I did many years ago).

My work requires that I listen well, and I am humbled every time I am complimented on that ability. The aftermath of my accident provided a profound and personal reminder that listening is not a skill any of us acquires naturally, and that our best connections with others—professionally and personally—are the result of monitoring and continuously improving our ability and our willingness to listen.

Diane Grigg: Speaker, Coach, Mediator
Telephone 847-965-8970

Lesson From A Fracture (Copyright 2007 Diane C. Grigg)