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Workplace Communication After Brain Injury or Stroke – Issues Insights and Advice From Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor

Fortunately for people with a head injury of various degrees, TBI, mTBIs or concussion, hemiparesis or strokes today , there are more opportunities for employment. However, there still are issues that are both visible and many that are internal to the people with the head injury. Communication in the workplace is often one of the most valued skills among professionals while mis-communication can be damaging in customer relations especially, costly in some projects or detrimental for interpersonal communication among co workers.

Common Symptoms effecting Spoken Communication that vary in degree

From mild to severe head injuries, strokes,  communication afterward can be effected in various way. Some may be visibly or audibly obvious as in speaking clearly possibly slowly, sometimes extremely slowly. More common are problems in auditory processing, memory, people skills, fatigue at times, mood swings even anger,frustration  and focusing ones attention as concentration is a key here. There are even times when words or phrases may be spoken out of order and can be awkward when spoken. Also controlling various emotions can sometime be an issue in employment as well if not evident to others, well certainly internally


All of these have occurred to me at different times, with improvement in some areas after much exercise, self help audios or even talk with loved ones or therapy with professionals but other areas are an ongoing issue yet minimized through techniques, exercises, sometimes strategies for almost three decades now with tips listed here.

Sure people react and live their lives differently but head injured do have common physical and especially mental effects that are exhibited similarly but to different degrees. Also, it is interesting how people in different professions, ages, in different work environments really act differently towards a person exhibiting one or more of the detrimental effects listed previously.

Slow Speech at times and Communication in the Workplace

At times, the thought processing and speech can be slow. but not constantly slow for various reasons that I not being a health professional but rather the injured will not list detailed. It could be termed inconsistent speech and draw attention to an issue in this way. During verbal communication on the job or even during employment interviews, talking one speed and then suddenly slowing down drastically may call attention to the issue especially if the other person is unaware of any past physical injury, the head injured person can look as if they are ignorant of the particular topic when in actuality it just doesn’t always come out or is spoken as fast and as clear as it should be. Even when coworkers, managers or customers have known of my tbi from years ago, they can act unacceptably. The most common reaction amongst people who work with me is to finish my sentences for me or restating it as this is what he meant. They may be trying to be helpful but sometimes make me angry on the inside or wanting to say that their version is not what I meant, please listen. But more than likely time is if essence and talking slow or hesitating for the right words just has no place in some high paced work environments.

I can tell you that this can be an extremely frustrating event when knowing the answer or correct response that may be beneficial to a conversation yet not being able to verbalize it fast enough. Some others will just talk right over you while a few will give time for the injured to answer. Frustration can even turn to anger on the inside more quickly for some depending on injury. I know this has occurred for me and keeping calm is something that was not easy when I was younger. The point of bringing this up was that since I have minimal control of the times when I may hesitate, looking for the right word or thought, I speak in a slower speed or speech pattern most of the time. Most others will allow you to finish thoughts when you do speak slower in general. Though, there are a few who just will still cut you off before you are finished to get there own thoughts across. If possible, stating that you were not finished is often a helpful phrase to use depending on the other persons position or status in the company.

Sure knowing what to say but not being able to verbalize it fast enough is a common cause of the slow speech intervals but the brain processing is slower in general. Hesitating for the right word to speak can be why speech is slower at times. As mentioned, by using the technique or practice of speaking slower during meetings or interviews, the moments of slower recall of words can be effectively minimized or it will not look as bad.

This is another are where smart coworkers can recognize a difficulty in processing speed or do things slower so they talk slower and talk to you or sometimes as if you are a child. When it happens to me I feel like stating that I’m no child and even though I act slow, I’m rather intelligent with an engineering degree and much technical training. I’ve even had a manager or colleague belittle me while talking to me in front of other managers or co workers. Sometimes one cannot avoid others reactions but learn to handle it better. For us with the head injury, quiet meditation, gratefulness and prayer daily can help immensely

Leon Edward

Author, Engineer, TBI survivor, Advocate of Healthy Aging Fit Mind Body After Concussions, TBI or Stroke.


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