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a blog by Don R. Crawley

Keynote Speaker on
IT Customer Service and Compassion

Bringing humanity into the world of technology

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It’s 1961, on the playground behind Robert E. Lee Grade School in Columbia, Missouri. I’m 7-years-old and up to bat in the P.E. softball game and I’m terrified. Let’s just say that sports, or anything requiring grace and coordination, was not then (and is not now) a skill at which I excel. I look at the pitcher. His facial expression, his posture, even his smirk say, “This is going to be an easy out.” History would indicate that was a reasonable expectation. The other kids are snickering, some of them are taunting me, even before the pitch. Here’s the windup and the pitch. I close my eyes and swing, expecting to hear the customary sound of the bat slicing through the air and nothing more. But wait, there’s a loud crack and I feel the shock wave of the bat connecting with a solid object. I crack open my eyes, the ball is soaring, the kids are screaming wildly. This is not what I expected. They yell for me to run. I take off down the baseline for first base, the coach waves me on. I head for second. The other kids are screaming, “Keep going!”, so I head for third and the coach waves me on to home. I muster all the speed a second-grader can and finally cross the plate. The kids are yelling “Touch the base! Touch the base!” I thought they meant third base, so I start running back to third…and get tagged out. I lost the only home run I would ever have. Knowing myself as I do today, that wasn’t surprising. As a 7-year-old, I’d been telling myself that I was a clutz, that everyone else was a better athlete than I, and that everyone else was cooler, smarter, and better-looking. Because that was the story I told myself about myself, that also became the story that other people, kids and adults, began to believe…and reinforce. Of course, my parents told me a different story about my ability. Some teachers told me a different story about my potential. But they were the adults who were supposed to be cheerleaders for a kid. What would have happened if my peers would have been cheerleaders?

Cheerleading for Each Other

As I grew older, I made new friends. They all knew my quirks, but chose to see the whole person. We all encouraged each other, sometimes with words, but most often with our actions. I still struggled socially, but I began to develop more confidence and self-respect. And, I began to achieve.

What if we all became cheerleaders for each other’s potential? What if peers cheered peers? What if we celebrated our differences and our diversity, instead of wanting others to be just like us? What if we spent more time listening and encouraging each other instead of talking at each other?

My friend, Jan Spence, a former full-tackle football player in a professional national women’s league, tells a story about her first try-out as a professional football player and how she encouraged the other women at the try-outs when many of them were on the verge of giving up. Even though they were her competitors in the try-outs, she lifted them up and, in the process, lifted herself up as well.

Who do you know, perhaps at work or maybe in your social circles, who needs a word of encouragement? Who do you know whose dreams have been laughed at, perhaps literally, but maybe through something more subtle? Maybe it was you or someone you care about. Maybe it was a bully whose bad behavior was masking a cry for help. Maybe it was that quiet person who never speaks up. Who do you know who needs someone to listen without judgement, to accept them as they are.

To paraphrase the words of songwriter Pepper Choplin, turn to the person on your left. Turn to the person on your right. They may seem strong, but we don’t know, all of the troubles and the burdens they hold. Take time to listen to people who are different from you, to people whom you may not like or even respect. Find a way to lift them up, to be their cheerleader. Offer words of encouragement. Become advocates and cheerleaders for others. You’ll likely find they will become advocates and cheerleaders for you.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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