There was no luxury of physical therapy or rehab when I broke my back. I had no money and no insurance. A life of pain lay ahead of me when I finally got out the bed six months later. It is amazing what you can learn to deal with and work through.

But the years caught up with me, and it became difficult to stay active without suffering later. I pushed on until the pain became so great that I could no longer manage it. Public speaking went to public sitting and pain forced me to use notes to stay focused. Something had to change.

The solution involved 6 months of physical therapy — three days a week. I hated it. The pain was worse than before. A great team of physical therapists watched me grit, cry, and try to smile as they fixed me. They retrained muscles and dealt with tissue damage due to years of chronic pain. They worked on compensating body mechanics and core body strength. They gave me new tricks.
Through it all, they never let up, and they never stopped cheering. Sometimes they talked with understanding voices. Other times they pushed me to the edge. They knew the immediate pain would mean no future pain.
I will never forget those people and how they rode the balance of pushing me through pain and, then, recovering me from it. I will always remember their encouragement as they set honest expectations for the next session and my future. Talk about freedom! I was finally free from a lifetime of pain, and with maintenance work, I continue to live pain-free.
When we encounter people who are facing pain and challenge, we need to listen like firefighters and, then, speak like physical therapists. Here are a few tips:
  • Be realistic and hopeful. Speak truth into people’s lives, even if the expectation for tomorrow is rough. Inspire them to see the end-game and the end-gain.
  • Speak out of experience. Don’t give advice and trite answers. If you haven’t lived it, or learned it, find someone to help them that has.
  • Give them tricks. Provide ideas and action items to get through the pain to the gain.
  • Leave room for gritting and despair. It is hard to see hope when you are in pain or being stretched beyond yourself. Don’t disparage the genuine emotions that go with trials.
  • Balance challenge with times of rest. Sometimes we need someone not to talk. Sometimes we need a push and other times we need a break.
  • Speak like a physical therapist, not a thug. Broken people rarely need to be broken at your hand.
What speaking ideas do you have? How can you speak better? Have you ever blown it when you started speaking?