My Communication Style–and a Boat Crash in Costa Rica


A wise man once told me, “You are you wherever you go.” Little did I know how true that might be– until disaster struck.

It’s 2001, a warm muggy day in southwest Costa Rica. My travel partner, Donna, and I have just finished our walking tour of the Corcovado rain forest with our nature guide, Maria, and our boat pilot, Luis. Shortly after pushing off from the beach and beginning our return to our tent cabin resort, the fuel line of our glorified row boat pops out of the motor and we’re forced to stop while Luis fixes it. Suddenly I hear a roaring sound from the direction of the beach, and WHAM, it happens! A much larger tourist boat, perhaps three times our size, slams into our vessel with brutal force, coming up and over us!
Maria and Luis see it coming and jump out of the boat just in time. Donna manages to duck down – and me, well, I’m completely oblivious until the prow of the bigger craft crashes into my lower back and throws me violently forward to the floor.
My first thought is “What the heck just happened?” My second thought is, “Oh my god, I’ve just taken a direct hit to my spine. Can I move my arms and legs?”
Miraculously, none of us are seriously injured. Luis is completely. Maria has a slight leg contusion. Donna has a black eye and a cut on the top of her head. Myself, although I don’t appear to be paralyzed, my back is in burning pain and I’m afraid to move around very much.

The larger boat pilot promptly tows us to the nearest resort, where the staff nurse checks us all out. As she’s bandaged up, Donna flashes me a big grin and says, “We are so lucky! That could have been so much worse. Gee, I wonder if I can get a margarita. Shall I order you one too?”

“Are you crazy! I’m hurt here. I might have injured my kidneys. I might still be paralyzed. I do NOT want a margarita!

The irony is, if I was in Donna’s shoes, with just a few cuts and bruises, I would be doing exactly what she’s doing – cracking jokes and jollying the situation.

You see, when I’m feeling safe and secure, that’s exactly who I am–the “jollyer”. Like Donna, I have what’s called an “initiating” communication style. That means I’m wired to be sociable, energetic, spontaneous and fun loving. I’m fast-paced and impulsive. I value interacting with others and sharing stories – like I’m doing right now. I’m motivated by relationships and prefer a stimulating, personal and friendly environment.

But I have a dark side as well, that comes out when I’m under duress—like say, during a boating accident in a third-world countries!Under extreme stress, I have three typical reactions: 1) I get short-tempered and judgmental. 2) I over worry. 3) I withdraw from people.

Back at our tent cabin, my condition gradually becomes clear. Thankfully, it seems I have little more than a big, deep, back bruise, about the size of a ripe papaya. It hurts to move, it hurts to lie down, it hurts to get up and use the restroom. But it definitely could have been worse.

Nevertheless, I’m angry—angry at the other boat pilot for not seeing us. Angry at Maria and Luis for abandoning ship! Angry at myself for being so oblivious.
At the same time, I’m filled with worry. Maybe I did really hurt myself. Maybe I should cut my trip short and go home.

And I also withdraw.

“Dave, can I get you anything? Some food? A margarita?”

“No thanks, Donna. I just want to be alone with my misery.”

Little by little my back does get better. My trip continues. I watch in amazement as Mount Arenal erupt at night. I swim in a hot spring river. I zip line over a jungle canopy, surrounded by the cries of howler monkeys
My initiating communication style returns as well. I rediscover my sociable nature. I find my lost sense of humor.

“You are you wherever you go”.

Whether in exotic Costa Rica or the Santa Rosa IHOP, your personality follows you, so you might as well get to know who you are and be ready for it.

Can I have my margarita now??!

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