In the pandemic of H1N1 in the fall of 2009, it was estimated that 2% of people affected would end up dying. I got way too close to that 2%, and on an October morning was whisked to the ER by my wife (and firefighters and paramedics), where I was discovered to be septic, dehydrated and suffering from kidney failure. As I lay unconscious, the doctor kept telling my wife to “go make arrangements,” because I wasn’t going to survive…

light at end of tunnel

Fortunately, she didn’t do that. She stayed by my side through a high fever and 4 days of unconsciousness, at which point I woke to the cheery face of the doctor as he told me “I’m not saying you’re going to be on dialysis forever….”

During about 7 months of recovery (and kidneys that miraculously returned to normal), we took a trip to Los Angeles for a job my wife was doing. On the way to our hotel in a cab, we were involved in a 3-car accident on the 10 at 70 mph. It crippled our taxi and had us up on two wheels for an uncomfortable five or six seconds. I was awake for that one, and I can tell you that near death experiences are much more unpleasant when you’re awake.

Sorry honey…you were awake for both of them.

This year it’ll be 5 years. I always knew I’d write about it, but I wasn’t sure about what or when I’d say something. So…

During that recovery period, we had a lot of conversations about what was next, what we wanted to do, etc.

Out of that Message Glue was born. Since then, we’ve had a chance to reflect on how catching such a stark image of mortality has not only helped us communicate better, but also helped us become more helpful to our clients

Here are the big 5 ways near death experiences can help us communicate better.

1. Life’s too short.

It’s a phrase a lot of people say. In this case, life’s too short to not say what you mean. Frankly, simply, directly. Everyone’s busy, no one wants to waste time. Getting to the point is something we can all respect.

2. Say it with compassion.

Just as life’s too short to waste time, it’s too short to not let others know how you feel about them. That doesn’t only extend to telling friends and relatives how much you love them and how much they mean to you, but also making sure the people you work with coworkers, your audiences feel respected and acknowledged by the position you take when you communicate. We all want understanding in all forms of internal and external communication we have opportunities to convey that in lots of different ways.

3. Be bold.

Believe in what you’re saying, boldly commit to it (or don’t say it), show your passion for your ideas…they may be off base, but they may lead to the right answer…a bold direction is a direction, and sometimes a resounding “no” is a helpful course correction.

4. Be yourself.

We all have insecurities, we all have fears and arguably none of them is bigger than the fear of death (except public speaking), so don’t’ be afraid to discover what you can achieve by simply embracing the unique set of qualities that make you who you are. Embrace your quirks. A unique set of qualities make you you, and those same qualities make you a unique communicator. Embrace them.

5. Don’t be afraid to see things from someone else’s POV.

We get caught up in our own agendas, points of view, beliefs, and there’s a lot of power in taking a moment to consider what someone else has been through. We’ve had more impromptu conversations with people that have gone through something similar than can be explained by coincidence.

Near death experiences (we’ve had 4 between us) are unpleasant and we don’t wish them on anyone. But our running joke is that if anybody needs a compelling reason to change the way they communicate, we can certainly spare one. All the benefits without any of the pain.

You’re welcome to one of them, as we have 3 to spare.

Now that we’ve faced our fear of death, every moment becomes more important, more exciting and more full of possibility.

5 Ways A Near Death Experience (or two) made us better communicators