Jo Gibson Special on listening, psychological first aid, communication and humility

sent by Nick Grantham | 23rd February 2021

"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."


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Communication is our superpower, and it is a skill that can constantly be improved. Doing a communication module as part of my Masters was a game-changer. In the health care professions, we can be guilty of chasing the 'diagnosis' and are great at picking up cues about structure and injury but maybe not so hot at picking up the emotional signals. However, the evidence is clear that if you let people tell their injury story (generally takes 2-3 minutes) and don't interrupt (apparently most of us do within 30 seconds!), they tell us the things that really matter - how their pain/injury experience impacts them. Every athlete's injury experience is so individual to them, and understanding their beliefs, concerns, and expectations enables us to establish the foundations for success.  This quote reminds us that effective communication is listening to learn what matters to the person in front of us.

Source: Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

"It's okay to not be okay."

Dr Emma Hepburn

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During Covid, I was redeployed to work in the psychological first aid service for NHS staff working on the frontline.  We essentially provided a safe space where people could unload and get support after a stressful day, and where necessary, signpost other resources. The World Health Organisation has researched major disasters and pandemics and shown that access to these safe spaces reduces the incidence of post-traumatic stress and mental health issues. Observing the impact of Covid on members of my team (in the NHS) and my patients (both in sport and the NHS) is a timely reminder that we all have mental health that needs looking after. We need to move away from the concept that mental health is something other people have and that we only need to think about when it goes wrong. "It's okay to not be okay" has become synonymous with the covid pandemic and reminds us to check in on family, friends, patients and athletes but also to look after ourselves.

Source:  A Toolkit for Modern Life @thepsychologymum by Dr Emma Hepburn

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place."

George Bernard Shaw

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As you can see, I will use any excuse to bang the communication drum! My experiences working in sport reflect those working in the NHS - that poor communication and incongruent information are deal-breakers and can stop athletes from getting back to what they love. I often get asked to review athletes who haven't responded as expected to treatment for their shoulder injuries. One of my first questions is 'what do you understand about the problem with your shoulder?' It is concerning how many times an athlete will say 'I don't really know' or 'I have been told lots of different things, and I am not really sure who is right". Conflicting with a trusted health care professional is a quick way to lose someone's trust and, importantly, can be a barrier to someone's recovery from injury.  Investing in the individual and what they understand about what they have been told is simple but essential. At the end of my assessment, I always ask individuals what they will tell their partner/husband/wife about what I have explained about their shoulder injury'. Sometimes it is a surprise what they repeat back! However, we are all influenced by previous experiences and beliefs, so we don't always hear what was actually said- our brains interpret the information and can tell us fibs! This simple check is a safety net that ensures we are on the same page and, importantly, allows us to re-explain.

Source: George Bernard Shaw

"Sweeping the sheds."

Dan Carter

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This quote was originally shared with me by my son Jack. He has had a challenging time with ankle injuries during his football scholarship but used the injury as an opportunity to improve in all the areas not limited by his ankle. The Legacy book resonated with him after his experiences in football, good and bad. When I read it, I felt it epitomised what matters in creating a championship culture and the importance of humility. The All Blacks cultural mantra of "Sweeping the Shed" essentially highlights that no individual is bigger than the team. Everyone in the group is responsible for the most minor details - including cleaning out the locker room after training or a match. "Sweeping the shed" is your job, no matter who you are.  Humility and valuing the role of everyone in my team keeps my feet firmly on the ground.

Source: Legacy: What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business of Life by James Kerr

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