Why it has taken a global pandemic to get people talking about their feelings
I have been heartened by the increase in people talking about their feelings over the past month or so of lockdown. Business conversations have been open, honest and become the norm. Notably, more men have opened up about how they are feeling than I have ever witnessed before, which is really encouraging.
If we rewind even to January 2020 there is no way I would have had this many conversations with clients or colleagues that were this real. If someone had asked “How was your Christmas?” you probably would have come back with “yeah it was great thanks, how was yours?” when in reality, whilst they might have had a great Christmas they inevitably would have had a few flat or rough days, which is the nature of the human experience, since everyone will go through tough times in their lives. If someone had indeed had a bad Christmas, there seems to be some shame around talking about it, like the expectation of Christmas should be magical and wonderful. It is the shame around our feelings which only compound and escalate the deterioration of our mental health. But now, I believe because EVERYONE is in the same situation (albeit to varying degrees) it for some reason feels OK not to be OK, almost like your feelings are justified and that everyone feels the same so no one will judge you. But the truth is that it has always been OK not to be OK, it doesn’t need to take a global pandemic for you to say that you are finding things tough.
It is great that line managers are (or should be) adopting a more humanistic approach, starting one to one and team meetings with asking everyone how they are doing and asking people to share what they have found helpful in looking after their wellbeing. This is the sort of conversation I have been encouraging through my work for years and I hope our new normal will act as a catalyst for positive change and that these sorts of conversations will continue long after this situation dies down. The truth is that people feeling like they can openly talk about how they feel, especially at work, will have more of a profound affect on people’s mental health than they may realise.