Communicating can easily slip into an area of complacency when we consider the distractions the rest of life tends to offer. When we’re so busy – working, catching up with people, tending to responsibilities – it can be the first thing to fall to the wayside, else we risk stepping into feelings of overwhelm. When it becomes all that ‘too much’, the tendency can be to take the path of least resistance and go with default decisions, however in experiences such as a lockdown during a world-wide pandemic, communication comes quickly to the fore again.
It got me considering the different areas in which, should we choose to step up to, we are able to more deliberately choose what, how and when we communicate.
- Work meetings – Communication at work seems the most obvious answer, so I’m starting here to address it and get it out of the way. During the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home suddenly became accepted as a mainstream norm. Yes, there were plenty of workplaces already embracing flexible working arrangements, which included staff working from home, or interacting remotely with satellite offices. Yet there was still a lot of resistance to whether or not working from home had its virtues or whether it would enable laziness and a lack of productivity. What many are finding out is that there is even more embracing the time in the work day they do have, using it as practically as possible perhaps because people are juggling other priorities. Meetings for the sake of meetings are becoming more and more scarce as, maybe, the realisation dawns of the time actually spent in these meetings and the impact they can have on productivity, especially those that could have remained a far shorter phone call or even as an email instead. Instead, what were previous time-fillers in the guise of feeling productive, there is a sense of deliberation on when and why meetings are set, with a clearer agenda and objective set out.
- Activities with friends – Instead of our social life being run by FOMO, we are collectively, more deliberately choosing which Zoom wine nights we’re setting time aside for and participating in, and noticing a distinct discernment in those we don’t prioritise. It’s not so much about ‘who’ doesn’t fill us up, though this would play are role somewhere along the way, but more about ‘what’ doesn’t fill us up. What activities did we previously go along with just because we didn’t want to feel left out or miss out on something, even if we weren’t all that into the event itself? This social isolation experience is allowing us to reset our social habits and feel more in charge of what activities and time we do allocate now that we’re connecting virtually from our homes.
- Keeping company – Remember how, in the ‘old days’ BCV (before COVID), we’d have people come over just to hang out and chill? There wasn’t a need a heaps of conversation, but we were just looking for company. The dynamics have changed in our conversations and it’s completely understandable if you have gotten caught in the idea that to reach out and connect to someone, it has to be for a conversation (over the phone). Instead, another way to look at how we communicate and connect, is that we can ‘virtually’ keep each other company as well. Miss your parents and just want to hang out on a Saturday afternoon? Why not ask them to set up their video call in the lounge room while you do the same (so you can see each other) and then just get on with that book you were going to spend the afternoon reading or the movie you were going to veg out and watch? It may feel a little silly at first, but there is a beauty in the collective experience of keeping company without having to have a big conversation each time. Company is normality for us. The more we can emulate ‘real life’ scenarios with the technology available to us today, the less actually isolated we will feel and the more we’ll feel like we are actively communicating – even without the huge conversation for the fifth time this week.
- Dating – In a perhaps idealistic perspective, since social isolation limits in-person dating (unless you live together), there is arguably more opportunity to actually connect through conversation. There is also less pressure to accept less than what you want or what aligns, since there is less physical convenience around at the moment. When you’re spending time with someone, sometimes what seems ‘easier’ is ignoring the potential red flags or misalignments and just continuing on, because maybe those bonding chemicals are telling you you’re more bonded than you actually are. The benefit of having almost an ‘enforced’ distance between you for the time being is having the space to see if a) you both can actually hold a conversation together and b) finding out more about each other through conversation without extraneous distractions. There’s also a little less of the scenario of getting home from a date and hopping onto that dating app to see who else there is to ‘like’. Instead, your communicate efforts (and that of the other person) become more involved, so you’re theoretically less likely to spend idle time in the effort of carrying five or more of these deeper conversations at once. It’s more effort, so you might find yourself more willing to be more deliberate and discerning with who you’re going to spend that level of energy on.
- At home – Did you have trouble asking for time to yourself in your home environment before, or simply just get in the car and go somewhere else when you needed it? Being kept in containment with others, no matter the relational dynamic we have with them, will either make or break that bond. You might experience more instances of ‘spikiness’ towards those you’re around day in and day out at the moment. While that’s entirely normal, it is also an opportunity to practice communicating your needs in a clearer, more distinct way. Instead of stepping into avoidance or just ‘heading out’ (which may have been totally acceptable even before), it’s an opportunity to explain your needs and even boundaries with those around you, regardless of whether anyone has actually overstepped them or not. Imagine the depth of understanding you could cultivate when you start explaining “Hey, I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. Everything is all good, I’m just going to take some time out for myself. I’ll be back.” If this is a new thing, it may initially prompt questions or concerns, but the more it’s practiced and becomes the norm, the more it helps others (and ourselves for that matter) understand that things like taking or asking for space isn’t necessarily a negative. It’s a show of respect for the space shared together.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it gives an opportunity to look at the areas in which we are choosing to act, communicate, and connect deliberately and the areas in which might have been moved into to that default mode.