I slid on the loose mat as I was stepping into the shower and slammed my shin into the side of the tub. Yeoww! It triggered all the nerves in my leg and was momentarily quite painful.

When I shared the incident with a friend, he discounted the incident and quickly moved on.

I think this exchange can serve as a metaphor for civility. Even though you can’t see outward evidence or don’t think something is a big deal, you need to respect that it is real for the person sharing it with you. It doesn’t matter that you can’t feel their pain; it still helps to acknowledge that it is there.

Hitting your shin causes disproportionate nerve reaction to the severity of the injury just as many comments or transgressions seem innocent but trigger larger emotions.

Our experiences are very real to us – whether they make sense, seem significant or are apparent to others. Keep in mind that the person to whom you are speaking may have just hit their shin – feeling true pain that is invisible to you.

Image by sciencefreak on Pixabay


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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