I joined the board of a great organization that cares for seniors and at my orientation they shared this story.
In building a new facility display cases were placed by each room. Filled with pictures and items for residents of adjacent rooms, they were meant as landmarks to make finding rooms easier. This practice had proven effective even with dimentia cases. They received a surprise. Employees and others observed a higher quality of care because these residents became people with an 80+ year history that was known to all those around them. In one case, it explained why a resident veteran who had been a POW tried to crawl out a window because of loud noises. Instead of medicating the resident they provided comfort.
History gives us context for current decisions we see people make.
When a friend acts irrational we know the history – and work through it.
What a stranger acts irrational we judge the action – and walk away or around it.
When we ask and listen it sends a powerful signal – we care.
Under stress, we too often forget to stop and listen to stories. We see ourselve as busy. Others see us as cold and uncaring.
Here is a tool I use to jumpstart the work relationship building process. Instead waiting to hear the question “Tell me about yourself”, I give this info and ask for the same in return. It is just a start, but it is a good start.
One last story . . . I used this tool to kickoff a planning session for a leadership team. The next day the CEO called the HR leader and quietly asked for a list of names of all family members for each executive on his team.
Some things are important no matter how old we are. Knowing someone changes how we treat them – and how they treat us.