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  • Writer's pictureBountiful Bridge

The Billboard

Billboards are everywhere, from big cities to rural highways. Typically, you can’t miss them.

If the billboard’s creative is impactful and effective, we will instantly know what message it is trying to communicate.

McDonald’s is a prime example of this. Their logo is so instantly recognizable that the viewer can immediately grasp the secondary message, such as a value menu or featured item.

Law firms also do this. You know, the ones that stick in your brain with some catchy yet scary reminder to call them when something awful happens.

While you may not remember every little detail of the billboard, you understand what you are seeing. You get the message and instantly comprehend it.

Sometimes, things in real life aren’t so clear.

For me, lately, day-to-day life has been unusually frustrating. Is it just me, or have you had similar experiences like this?

Someone speeds past you in traffic and then cuts you off.

You witness a ‘Karen’ berate a cashier in line at the grocery store.

The receptionist at the doctor’s office is short with you and comes across as annoyed and impatient.

You met with that co-worker who constantly seems like they are in a bad mood.

The kids are continuously fighting.

This kind of stuff can get to you.

If you let it, it can ruin your entire day.

Situations like these are frustrating, annoying, and disruptive. The repetitive message on your own internal billboard could be something like, “Enough already. Why is everyone so awful?”

Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, coined the following phrase:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” - Stephen Covey

Think about those words for a moment.

Now, back to my billboard analogy.

What if everyone had their own billboard above their head? What if we could look at them (seek to understand) and then instantly know why they acted as they did (then be understood )?

So, here are my billboards of understanding for the frustrating examples I used earlier.

The person who cut you off in traffic overslept because they were up all night with a crying baby, and their boss warned them not to be late again or risk being fired.

The ‘Karen’ at the grocery store is grieving over the loss of her husband, and she doesn’t know how she is going to do everything alone.

The receptionist at the doctor’s office is frustrated because she isn’t sure that her physician’s specialty can help you. She wants to help but doesn’t know if it’s worth your time to see another specialist who may not have the answers.

The co-worker who’s always in a bad mood? She takes care of her sister, who has a long-term illness, and health insurance won’t allow her to be in a care facility, so she works full-time and then goes home to care for someone else. She needs a break and doesn’t know how to make that happen.

The kids are fighting because, well, kids, but we also tend to forget that even as children, they have stress in their lives: tests at school, pressure to do well at sports, navigating friendships, and absorbing their parents’ stress when they feel it.

Look, we are all humans with busy lives, and while we can’t take the time in every situation to seek to understand everyone, we can try when we feel like something is really impacting us.

The receptionist at the doctor’s office? True story for me.

I have been taking care of my dad constantly for the last eight months. His health history shows the amount of tests and hospital stays he has had over this time, with no definite answers.

So, when I called yet another specialist’s office, this person was wary that they could help. I immediately sensed her frustration, so instead of snapping back (which I had done in many other situations), I asked her a question.

“How can I help you get the information that you need to make the decision?”

When I asked this question, she paused for a long time—like, paused for so long that I asked her again.

Her response was slower, thoughtful, and detailed. She explained that she was frustrated because she a.) didn’t have all of the information she needed for my dad and b.) she wanted to help, but she didn’t know if her office could do that. She didn’t want to waste our time again because she knew that we had been down this road before.

Our conversation became helpful and productive, and we also had a chance to connect. She apologized for her frustration; it meant more because I understood where she was coming from, and she understood that we needed answers. In this situation, I chose to seek understanding so that I could be understood.

Again, not every situation warrants a full explanation. That’s why billboards above our heads would be so very helpful. Since this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, perhaps we can choose patience over impatience, or a small smile rather than an eye roll. It makes a huge difference.

A few days after the conversation with the receptionist, I saw a friend out while shopping. I was frustrated for another reason and trying my best to fight it. I almost didn’t stop and say ‘hello’ because I knew my mood was not good.

But I did stop, and that small conversation with her changed my whole day for the better. In this situation, I’m glad that I didn’t have a billboard above my head because she may not have stopped to talk to me. But, oh, I am so happy that she did.

So, as we cross this latest bridge, what do we want our billboards to say? What is really at the root of the rough spots in our lives? We all have stress and challenges, as they are part of life’s journey.

So perhaps the more important question is: What do we want to seek to understand so that our days can be more happy, positive, and fulfilled, and so our challenges seem less challenging?

I’m still crossing this particular bridge and will likely walk it for the rest of my days.

Until next time -



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2 Σχόλια

09 Ιουλ

I was inspired by your "how can I help you to get the information..." and contacted the neurologist that it took me five months to get an appointment with. But I forgot the gracious format you had and merely asked what it would take to make a decision... I'm trying to calm myself that at least I've done it and wasn't nasty. The carwreck was Dec 2 of last year. I still haven't been cleared or even forbidden to drive again. Just not now. All tests have come back normal other than the sleep study which states that I have "mild sleep apnea" when sleeping on my back. Thank you for encouraging to try, again, to get answers in a…

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Bountiful Bridge
Bountiful Bridge
09 Ιουλ
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I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through that. I can imagine that it is scary not to have all the answers from a neurologist. And frustrating. Believe me, I have let my frustration show with dad's health issues in the wrong way plenty of times. Yet, the biggest lesson I have learned on this journey is that sometimes there isn't an immediate answer. Medicine is science but it is also a lot of trial and error. Remember to go easy on yourself, too. You called and asked for answers - that's huge! If you need support, I'm here. Thank you for reaching out. It means so much. xo, Bridgette

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