Thank You For Listening To Me

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Recently, I had dinner with a gentleman who helped bolster something I’ve known for years. Here’s the story….

 

In 1969, Jim was injured by a grenade in Vietnam. In addition to the physical injuries he suffered, he was also diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. And, duh! Wouldn’t we all have some PTSD after a grenade blew up in our lap? Jim talked about how, when you’re in a combat zone as Vietnam was, you are on such high alert every second of every minute of every day. And with the average soldier’s tour lasting 13 months, that is a huge physical toll on one’s body. Even if they aren’t in a direct battle, just knowing that, at any moment, bombs could come flying out of the sky is a HUGE amount of stress. I simply cannot imagine.

 

Last year, Jim also suffered a stroke. I wasn’t able to determine if the stroke or the explosion left him with a traumatic brain injury, but either way, he has one. I’ve done a fair amount of work with folks with TBIs while working with Highway Safety in Missouri, as well as MADD and Think First. I guess if you have to have a TBI, Jim’s is the kind to have. He is aware that his interactions are a little slow, but his speech is clear, his voice is strong and his memories seem as accurate as if they’d happened yesterday. As his wife says, the record player of his mind runs at 33.3 RPM while the rest of us are at 45. Every once in a while, he’ll have to pause mid-sentence and collect his thoughts, regroup and start over. He is aware that this flow interrupts the natural flow of conversation. Which, if one is aware, that is a really great trait to have. Heck, we all know people who commandeer conversations and have no clue that they’ve lost their audience halfway through their story…and these folks don’t have TBIs, just no awareness.

 

After dinner, we all hugged good bye. As Marvelyne and Jim embraced, I overheard him say, “Thank you for listening to me.”

 

Again, he’s aware how his communication is just a tinge off. And, like everyone, he appreciates being acknowledged and listened to.

 

Friends, this is precisely what I try to get across to my audiences. This is the very foundation around which Narrative Medicine revolves. Active listening. Knowing how therapeutic it is for another to feel acknowledged and heard and listened to. It’s what the majority of spouses argue about; the very essence of wanting to be heard.

 

Faithful reader, I hope you’ll think of this story next time someone is speaking to you. Just like you want to be listened to, so does that person. Practice active listening.

 

 

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