Expectations, empathy and elephants


imagesRecently I hurt my left eye.  Unfortunately it happened when I harmlessly rubbed it, rather than during a swashbuckling misadventure!

My eye was inflamed and red and of course it happened to be smack-bang in a week when I had a helluva lot on.  Worst of all, the very next day I was presenting an all-day workshop for a client who had never met me before. Since Plan A — crawl into a hollow log for a week — wasn’t possible, I decided to follow my own advice: ‘Always start by framing the elephant in the room.’

So for a week I used a variation of this entrée, as I stepped onto the stage with one bulbous red eye.  “Today I come to you with a health warning.  I burst a capillary in my left eye – apparently it’s really common.  Everyone knows someone who has.  It’s perfectly harmless, painless and not contagious but it looks grotesque!  So I understand if you make less than stellar eye contact with me today.

Whenever stuff like this happens I always have two reactions: the first being ‘Why me? why this?’ and the second being ‘How can I use this as a story?’ and that is the radar I hope to turn on with you today.”

A burst capillary takes about a week to heal (I am now of course an expert) and in the course of the week I decided to have fun with it.  I even bought an eye patch and introduced that as a prop.  I know what you are thinking, and I am so not going to post a photo of me in the eye patch – I looked like a pirate with issues!  And after a week, when my eye healed I almost missed the endless material it gave me.  Almost.

What my whole experience reinforced was the power of frames to set expectations, engender empathy and address any elephants in the room.  Eye patch optional.

Please comment – I love hearing from you.

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14 Comments
  • Mike Allen
    Reply

    Mwah!
    Great example of that old saying “if life gives you lemons make lemonade”
    That’s why I value your newsletter

  • Reply

    Yamini, Good piece and I also think the image is terrific. Reminds me of my dress malfunction the other day on the train that I was unaware of until EVERY second person politely tapped me on the shoulder (men and women) to let me know
    the split in the back of my dress had split too far. Very thoughtful, but after the 5th person had done so it was a case of locating the nearest shop with ‘something’ I could buy (safety pin option was not an option). First shop had nothing my size – it was clearly a shop for petite Asian women but I was desperate and felt like a desperate elephant in it.
    I finally located a shop and a dress, and a shop assistant who said my malfunction was totally normal and that most of
    their business derived from such incidents. I could have hugged her..in fact I think I did. We are all humans…or elephants in disguise. Thanks for sharing. Keep the patch.

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Jacqui your story had me in splits! Thank you so much for sharing and thank god for the empathic hug worthy shop assistant who saved the day. Wardrobe malfunctions are the bane of our lives, but you recovered with grace and aplomb.
      Thanks
      Yamini

  • Sundar Rajamanickam
    Reply

    Nice picture of the elephant in a conference room Truly an innovative idea to go ahead and impress the audience. Me or probably many others, would have chosen to cancel the session, but this truly is great idea.

  • Indu
    Reply

    Brilliant, Yamini and thank you!! This post made for a delightful read! Thought of my own response to the situation as I was reading and to be honest, I might have called it off. So thank you for letting me know I could still go ahead and facilitate a workshop that would most certainly be memorable for all…and very story-worthy;)!!

    Good luck!!

    Indu

  • Dilip
    Reply

    Happens to me on the morning after a big night out. Glazed eye look. I’ve used a few fairy tales to cover it up as well.

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Dilip such a glamorous life ! Sadly every thought the same for me, that I had a big night out or worse got into a pub fight:) Sadly happened in the most ordinary way yet could use it for a story!
      Best wishes
      Yamini

  • George Karlis
    Reply

    Great Advice Yamani

    The audience will be focussed on the obvious physical distraction so why not frame it into the content asap

    I saw Billy Connelly perform a few weeks back

    He has beautifully incorporated his newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease into his performance with great effect but also sensitivity toward those suffering from this disease

    Cheers

    George

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      George thank you so much for sharing Billy Connelly’s example. Very inspiring and such an important message and I am sure he did with both humour and candour. Shall check it out hopefully on youtube. I am also writing a chapter in my book on humour and a post, so this is defintely food for thought.
      Best wishes
      Yamini

  • Justine
    Reply

    LOL, thanks for sharing this personal tale Yamini.

    I, like many others I’m sure, chuckled at your candid experience as it is all too familiar. Through the very act of being human we will at some point in time have a, what may be considered, embarrasing situationbut you have helped me see how a situation, personal infliction or deformity!?! whatever it may be, can be postively reframed to support your message. Thank you!

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Justine thank you so much, I always hesitate before sharing something personal, but the response it evokes is always worth it.
      Regards
      Yamini

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