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What a Stroke Victim Taught Me about Life

Sometimes a single experience, lasting but a few moments, can alter your perspective for the rest of your life.
While visiting my mother-in-law in her nursing home, my husband and I met two of her best friends, a couple married 63 years who share a room near hers. Mrs. Thompson had a stroke five years ago that has paralyzed almost every part of her body.

Except her eyes.
I was struck by the way she communicated with them. As I spoke with her and her husband, I could tell she understood everything we said. Just by the expressions she conveyed with her eyes.
Mr. Thompson has lived with his wife in the nursing home all five years so he could be by her side and tend to her needs. The love he expressed when speaking to or about his wife touched my heart, and her eyes shined brightly in response to his words.
I realized how much we miss in communication when we don't watch a person's eyes. Whether we're talking or listening, the other person's eyes reveal a lot to us if we're paying attention. But we're often so busy speaking about ourselves or waiting for our turn to talk that we don't even notice these valuable cues.
As I was leaving their room, I took Mrs. Thompson's hand in mine and held it closely for a few minutes. She smiled with her eyes and grasped my own hand tightly.

Later, I realized that I was able to pay attention to her eyes and instinctively reach for her hand because of wisdom I absorbed from Jill Bolte Taylor's break-through book, My Stroke of Insight.
Dr. Taylor is a brain scientist who experienced her own life-altering stroke at age 37. Her book describes her journey from the day of her stroke and the following ten years of her recovery. I was spell-bound reading about the thoughts and emotions she had during this process. Her book is an incredibly valuable resource if you know someone who's had a stroke. She explains what stroke victims need most from others, even though they're often unable to articulate those needs.

So here's the Speed Tip for this issue.
Starting today, pay more attention to what's being communicated through a person's eyes. Use your eyes to reinforce your own words, and watch the eyes of others when they're speaking in order to perceive the total message. If you do this, you'll connect on a deeper level with your customers, coworkers, friends, and family members. And your relationships will grow stronger as a result.

Copyright © 2009 Meredith M. Bell
Meredith Bell is "Your Voice of Encouragement" and president of Performance Support Systems. Millions of participants worldwide have used 20/20 Insight, an onsite survey and development system that helps people become stronger for life and work. More free articles and videos at or