Thursday, August 17, 2006

Getting serious for a moment …

Most of the communications skills I talk about, in my books and here on this blog, help you work better with customers and each other. Today, I want to share one from personal experience that could save a few people’s lives.

First, the backstory: This summer, I went in for a routine physical, and a couple of tests came back with very frightening results. I’ll spare you the personal details, but for the past month, I have had to go through a battery of tests to rule out several different kinds of cancer. (Thankfully, I now have a clean bill of health.)

Now, back to the communications skills. Like just about everyone these days – or at least anyone computer-literate enough to be blogging – I went to the Internet to research what was in store for me. What I found was a smattering of official medical information, several postings about how horrible these tests were, and some very scary statements about my prognosis.

I went through the tests anyway (because, as I tell my wife, I have an “un-dying” love for her), but with no small amount of trepidation. In reality, these tests were no big deal at all – even the most invasive one, a prostrate biopsy, was completely painless and over with in a few minutes. Moreover, the doctor was quick to reassure me that my own prospects were far less grim that what I was reading on the Internet.

So now that I’m OK, I want to turn my attention to the people who post messages about their own health experiences. It’s human nature to dramatize the things we go through, once they are over with. It’s like when we were kids at summer camp, and everyone in my tent breathlessly tried to top one another about who had the biggest fight, or the worst bee sting. Except that now, as grown-ups, the stakes are higher. Sadly, I read too many stories on-line about people who dreaded these tests so much that they put off having them – in some cases, waiting until their cancer had spread and their prognosis was poor.

So, if you are one to share with the world what your last fill-in-the-blank-oscopy was like, just remember that real people, making real decisions about their health, are reading your words – and just like I prescribe for customer situations, do your best to reassure people and word things to the other person’s benefit. And finally, a word to everyone, particularly my fellow males – if you aren’t getting regular physicals with blood work and urinalysis, DO IT. Much of the reason that human life expectancy has increased by over 50% over the last century can be summed up in two words: early detection. Take care and be healthy.

On a lighter note, the “hat” picture is gone. Tiring of the typical middle-aged-bald-guy-in-a-tie business author photo, I decided to go the stylish route – open collar, light sport coat, and a white Panama hat. Some people thought it was great. Some people thought I looked like a real character. One brave person even ventured that I looked like Colonel Sanders.

So anyway, cooler heads have now prevailed, and a new picture of what I *really* look like (on most days, anyway) is back online at my website of and my new book’s website at

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