Switchboard skills


One of the jobs I held during my early college days was as a clerk in the utility/payment office at Ed Marlings in Topeka, Kansas. I did a lot of data entry on computer and took payments at the window as people came to pay bills. I was also trained on their old-fashioned switchboard to relieve the regular phone operator for her daily breaks as well as her vacation times. While the switchboard skills were not difficult to learn, there were a few things that were important to remember in this position.

First, it was necessary to answer the calls in a certain manner. Besides the rehearsed greeting we were to say, our attitude and tone of voice was important. Appearing pleasant was required.

When you walk through grief, you often do your best to put on a strong “front” to show others you are doing just fine, when in truth you are hurting terribly. Knowing when to be strong and knowing when to release your pent-up emotions makes your journey easier. Having the freedom to be “real” with certain people is certainly helpful and something every grieving person needs.

Another of the switchboard skills that transfers to walking through grief is testing the waters. When we were connecting an incoming call to their requested party, we were to lightly touch the end of the plug to the correctly numbered slot to see if the person being called was on the phone. The only way to tell if that line was already busy was to hear the static that occurred when we touched the slot.

When traveling through loss, it is natural to want to test the reactions of others. You may offer only a little of your story while watching their face for telling signs. You may also test yourself by trying to get back into the flow of life’s activities. Are you ready to venture out to eat alone? Perhaps it is safe for you to attend a show or movie without feeling conspicuous. It is also possible to go overboard the other way. Are you compensating for your loss by staying too busy?

There were a few times when I was substituting as the switchboard operator that I failed and plugged in to a busy line at times, causing terrible static and a momentary ear-splitting noise. Oops! Quickly grabbing the cord and pulling it back out was all I could do to remedy my mistake. The same is true in grief.

If you try something and fail, then take a step back and gather your thoughts. Evaluate the situation. What happened and why? Is there a better way to try it next time? Would a friend give you constructive advise to help you see a different point of view? Chances are what you perceive as a failure probably is not all that bad. Your feelings can be tender as you journey toward healing. Be encouraged to keep trying and keep honing your own switchboard skills as you walk through grief.

Until next time –



Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.