I remember as a child listening to the radio in my parents’ station-wagon as we drove cross country to visit grandparents in the Midwest. This was many years before satellite radio and the selections were limited. My sisters and I never had a say in which station we listened to during the long, long drive but we always knew, sooner or later, Paul Harvey’s gentle and soothing voice would stream over the radio waves sharing a tale about a famous or not-so-famous person that either melted our hearts or at least left us somewhat intrigued. As a commentator, Harvey had the ability to tell a story in layers which ultimately built up to a lesson learned or ah-ha moment about the state of our country. His tag-line, for which he became well-recognized for was, “And now . . . the rest of the story.”
Twenty years as an Ombuds has taught me a few things including this: a substantial number of conflicts result when we fail to get the rest of the story before taking action. If supervisors and colleagues chose to pause rather than react and then determine what additional information is needed prior to moving forward, many conflicts could likely be avoided or at least minimized.
What does it take to get the rest of the story?
- Don’t rush to judgment.
- Assume there is more to the story.
- Get curious. Take the time to seek out other perspectives and learn by asking questions of each person’s intent, reasoning, or experience. It will save you time and effort in the long run.
- Recognize that not only is it helpful to gather the rest of the story, it is fair and right to do so.
- Thoughtfully respond rather than moving forward with the initial knee-jerk reaction.
- Be open and willing to hear and appreciate the additional information and modify your actions appropriately rather than rigidly maintaining your initial game plan.
- Appreciate that these thoughts are useful to consider at all levels of an organization and for all departments/units.
By Melissa Connell
Director, Ombuds Office University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus