Undeniably, communication is something we can’t avoid. As babies, we were taught how to speak so that we could interact with the world in front of us.
If you think about your day today or yesterday, it would be very difficult to track how many different interactions you’ve had - with colleagues, family members, loved ones, neighbours, strangers, and most importantly yourself. Our dialogue with the surrounding environment is on a constant never-ending thread, and that’s because every aspect of our day-to-day lives involves communication.
In less than a month’s time, the world has had to adjust to a new normal - a new way of existing. When I think back to my daily routine before the outbreak, it looks a lot different than it does today.
Apart from the conversations we have with people, nonverbal cues play a big role in our everyday interactions as well. During a typical work day, I make contact with people who smile at me while waiting for the train and I briefly connect with people who I hold the door open for on my way to work. Throughout my day, I might quickly catch up with a colleague in the kitchen or join group brainstorms at work. On the commute home I would call a friend and it doesn’t stop there because we are communicating right until the moment we decide to disconnect for the day.
When the world slowed down, it limited our daily interactions to those in our household, to the neighbours we cross on the sidewalk, to the Canada Post courier who delivers our mail, to the person wiping off our cart at the grocery store. Collectively, we’ve all entered this holding period and everyone is looking for new ways to connect with one another.
Only a month ago there were days, even weeks, where I felt so overwhelmed and all I wanted to do was hide from everybody and everything. I wanted that solitude more than anything. As someone who loves social interaction and connecting with people, I also need time to decompress. I was in and out of meetings and running out of the office to catch up with friends - I left little to no time for myself to breathe or catch up.
As an introvert, too much communication can be exhausting and can feel forced and uncomfortable.
When conversations begin to feel this way, interactions can kind of lose intention or a sense of purpose and I think that’s because we’re not 100% invested in the conversations we’re having with one another.
With the outbreak and new physical distancing mandatories, I am starting to check in more with friends, family members and colleagues and we’re having more meaningful conversations around how this is affecting them, how they’re feeling and how’re they’re keeping busy. Conversations are beginning to feel more intentional and face-to-face interactions (although virtually) are energizing and refreshing. It’s nice to see everyone smile, hear a familiar laugh and make virtual eye contact with those you used to see so often.
I think about the people I don’t know– those who might be alone, the elderly who don’t have access to technology to connect with their family. How do we reach them, how are they staying connected during this time? I’ve been listening to more podcasts, mainly from Brené Brown, and in one of her episodes she speaks about comparative suffering.
If you’re struggling now but think your pain is inferior to others out there, it’s important to remember that your feelings still matter, because your feelings belong to you.
The only way we can heal collectively is by having empathy for ourselves and those around us. I’m working to take care of myself so that I can be there for others. It’s a hard time for everyone and we are all processing this pandemic differently. All we can do for each other is check in and stay connected anyway we can.
Communication doesn’t have to always be with other people (and this might sound strange), but it’s important to check-in with ourselves and see how we’re doing. Ask yourself what you need to feel grounded and supported during this time.
Make the conversations you’re having with people meaningful and if you’re out for a walk or going to the grocery store, maybe check in with the people you encounter because you never know how they’re handling everything. Smile at those you pass because at the end of the day, we’re in this together.
Stay safe everyone