People are nicer to you when you’re injured | The Cloudfoot Diaries #79

11 days ago I landed badly on my right shoulder during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class. It was part accident, part poor technique and the result was a grade 2 seperation of my right AC joint; a predicted 8 week recovery time.

Every facet of my life was going quite swimmingly until the injury, and since slinging my right arm up and out of action, I’ve had to narrow down my focus to what is critical right now; Sleeping (the most important factor out of ‘Home Living’; eating, washing etc.), Earning Money and Training around the injury.


Althought the first night was so brutal that I didn’t sleep at all, since then I’ve been sleeping with my torso elevated to 45 degrees, lying on my left side only. I don’t adapt to new sleeping positions easily, unless I’m so exhausted that I have no other choice. This case was the latter, and it seems to be working. Thankfully a friend put me up for the week so I didn’t have to endure the pain of the first night that I spent in the van.

Earning Money

“What do you do for a living?” the hospital doctor asked.
“Lots of things, but right now I fit ski boots and sell snowboard gear.”
“Well, you’re not going to be doing that for a while then, are you?” he replied, whimsically, like doctors often do when they’re not the ones with the injury and are somehow getting a tad complacent as to what being injured really means as a civilian.

Not doing it is not an option; my cerebral response. And since then, I’ve learned very quickly how to fit ski boots one-handedly. I can get the liners in and out (getting them out took me a couple of days to master), inner-soles in and out, all clips done-up or undone, and even assist the customer getting into the tighest of fits.

The physical side I’ve smashed straight away because I have to. I’m not contracted with the company I currently work for because I’m new. I’m also on probation for 3 months as a new labour slave. Turning up injured in my second week, demanding sick pay for 8 weeks until I return was begging for a response of ‘Fuck off, there’s the door!’, five words I literally can’t afford to hear. So you end up dealing with it, right?

But perhaps more fascinating than the physical adaptations I have made, are the social tweaks I have noticed, and just what leverage the prop (a sling for my injured arm) has brought to the daily encounters I have with strangers.

Robert Cialdini will tell you that Reciprocation is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. Well, I’ve been milking it the last few days, and it’s been working.

When I fit ski boots with a customer, it’s usually been a service-based process. I undo all the clips, I help them get in the boot, I do all the clips up, I give the instructions on how to test for discomfort etc. Except now, with only one arm, I do all of the same things but to the customer, it appears that I am giving them more than just a service. I must be giving them a service of higher quality because I have less means at my disposal.
This is a powerful illusion, because really, nothing has changed in service. Yes, it is more effort to fit a boot with one hand than with two, but for someone like myself, that’s not really that much more.

Reciprocation manifests in the form of manners and returned service. 80% of the customers feel compelled to assist me where they can, feeling driven not to let me tackle this seemingly two-handed task soley with one limb. And I let them, because their reciprocation is also a gift, and the power of a gift is only unleashed when it is fully received.
When I am giving my service, and the customer is giving their help, it creates a very, very powerful, albeit temporary, rapport bubble.
I’ve never been formally taught the psychology of sales but I can tell you in the last week since temporarily losing the function of my right arm, I’ve turned into a fucking powerful salesman.

The rapport bubble is a fantastic phenomenon and is one of the most powerful scenarios you will ever find yourself in; either as the recipient, captain or co-pilot. In this instance of fitting ski boots, it is the latter; we are co-pilots, together. What this does to most people is immediately make them nicer. Of course, there are exceptions. I’ve still served men and women who are so unaware of how they come across, so jaded to making observations in the world that they still express themselves so rudely, abrasively and quite frankly, tragically, regardless if the person in front them has a right arm or not. But for the other 80%, I can noticeably see acts of compassion and charity (albeit catalysed in our scenario by the force of reciprocation) manifest themselves in the most surprising of ways. So much so, myself and my colleagues have joked that we should all don some sort of injury prop, be it slings, crutches, joint supports etc, to increase the level of manners and niceties we all appreciate as servants.
I mean, I still earn fuck all and have yet to see a ‘tip’ but at least the person walking away with a pair of boots will remember the guy that never quit the fit because he only had one arm.

The ‘Training around the injury’ section I will save for another installment, as it has its own details and depth that are perhaps irrelevant to the social implications I have listed above.

Fascinating though, how the appearance of a mild, operational deficit, in a seemingly physically and mentally healthy individual can influence most people out there to be temporarily better humans, isn’t it?


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Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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