Not long ago, I got sick. Sick enough that I ended up going to the emergency room. As many men know, we don’t go easy. From many men’s point of view, whatever may ail us will certainly get better on its own if we just ignore it long enough.

But on this day, ‘ignore therapy’ was not working and had just made me feel much worse. I woke at 2:00 a.m., sure that some animal had just reached its claws down my throat and scratched out whatever used to be there. My throat was so very painful. 

Also, I had shooting pains through my jaw and in my ear. For any of you who have had a migraine, this pain was so bad that I wished I could just have a good ol’ migraine instead of this.

So there I was, walking into the ER and I couldn’t imagine feeling more miserable.

My visit to the ER consisted of seeing four different people, answering the same question for all of them, and getting cleared for strep throat. That was the good news. After the doctor had seen me, she diagnosed me with a throat infection and an ear infection. I was given a prescription and sent on my way.

Now please understand this. Through my rounds of staff, questions, and answers; I repeatedly asked if they would treat the pain. I had understood that they would treat the cause, but I wanted the pain relieved as well. It didn’t work that way. On the way out the door, I asked one more time and was told to take some Tylenol.

I realized something that day. I, the customer, had walked in the door that day wanting help. I had left that ER feeling just as bad as when I had walked in. Feeling… not helped.

Was it because they were incompetent? Did they just not care? I am sure that all the medical personnel I met, and the ones I didn’t meet, are professionals that even today want to help and heal. The same thing I wanted. They did an excellent job healing. I am sure my medications were going to fix me right up, as they planned.

But was I helped? I believe that they were convinced so. They had helped to heal someone in distress. That, to them, was helping. And they had efficiently moved on to help others.

I, on the other hand, wanted a different help. I knew I was on the way to being healed. I didn’t feel helped when I had left.

You see, I work with my assistant in schools, helping staff who are having trouble with computers. The two of us take care of the 900 computers, 20 servers, and all the network cables and equipment. To do that, we try to be as efficient as possible. The less time we spend talking with people and explaining what we do, the more time we can spend fixing problems that are occurring with the computers. This approach allows us to fix more people’s computers, thereby helping more people.

But my realization that day? Here it is. If people don’t feel helped, it doesn’t matter how many problems we fix. It was time to spend a little more time making people feel helped.

The same is true in public speaking. If you are standing in front of a group, trying to persuade them, you’ll do much better if the audience leaves feeling helped.  Get them to see things your way, to feel as if they are better off with this new perspective or new information.

Copyright 2007 Michael Cortes

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