What became of us in 2020

2020! What a year! I don’t know about you, but the political and ideological division of the world has hit me right between the eyes. Considering the chasms between people’s ways of thinking, it’s a wonder that humanity evolved to the current state.

2020! What a year! It got me into dreaming of an utopian future of greater self-awareness and communication skills! There’s so much more room for goodwill in our societies. For more effective health-care systems. For healthy trust in governments and science. For customized ways to communicate important messages and relevant knowledge. 

So I do hope that this year has opened our eyes, minds and hearts towards generous involvement and collaboration. There’s a place and moment for each of one us to make peace and not conflicts!

This may have been a shitty year of unemployment and sickness for the less lucky, among us. For the most social among us, it has been the year of the unexpected and unpleasant experience of physical isolation. 

Despite all the struggles, we had the chance to get closer to the person we’re normally and unconsciously running away from, – ourselves. So, one thing the COVID crisis has taught the extrovert in me is that being with myself is not that bad. As long as I have a functioning memory and abundant imagination. A bit of memory mixed with a constructive imagination and presence of spirit can be the beginning of a new type of involvement in the post-COVID world. 

2020! What a year! Now, Christmas is just around the corner. Can you believe it? Travelling to extended family get-togethers is last years’ thing. This year, we’ll have a virtual Christmas of doing things differently, in a non-traditional way. 
As for myself, I’ll curl up with some glöggi drink and a fiction book. A book that my emotional state calls for. I’ll allow myself to relax, as if there’s no tomorrow. As if I am enough. As if the present is eternal.

I’d love to hear your story. What did you learn about the world and yourself this year? What is it that you are excited about, this Christmas? Whatever you’ll do, I hope you’ll have a Merry Self-Aware one! 

How to be comfortable with yourself during layoffs, temporary or not?

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 strongly disagree and 10 strongly agree, how satisfied have you been with yourself in the past weeks? What kind of thinking has been more like you? “I wish I were different?” or “I trust myself to go through this situation.”

We are at a stage of the coronavirus crisis when the personal energy of working people around the world has dropped. As a result, team conflicts in organisations have increased. To help their people go through this stage of mental exhaustion, team leaders chose to disrupt their teams. 

“So, she (the CEO) acted quite decisively on the team itself by radically changing it.” writes the author of the HBR article, If You Feel Like You’re Regressing You’re not Alone: “ She sent one team member home temporarily who was not adding value in this phase. ”

There are many people, in different professional occupations, who have been sent home. For example, in Finland, the country where I live, in week 22, 8.563 have been temporarily laid off and 10.593 have been unemployed due to the fact that the implemented restrictions affected the economy. How might these individuals feel about their current unemployment? Those whose main identity does not rely on the job that they do, may be mostly worried about their financial safety.

But what if your main identity is strongly related to your work? Like it can be the case for the person who is part of the executive team? Or if you are an artist, designer or have a small business of your own? You may have the tendency to feel less concerned over financial losses and more concerned about the impressions that you make in front of your boss, colleagues or clients. So, when your boss or client decides that you don’t add value, it’s no wonder that you end up feeling lonely, fearful, easily irritated or maybe verbally aggressive. You may be thinking, “I wish I were someone else.”

How can we make it so that the feelings of self-worth remain unaffected in face of temporary unemployment or terminated work contract? How can we continue believing in ourselves when others judge our professional competence to be disposable?

If we were Eleanor Roosevelt, we would say, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” In order to get to this place where you are psychologically independent of others’ opinions and decisions, you may consider the following three steps:

  1. Reassess what else you value, other than the opinion of your boss. Maybe you value the opinion of your family and friends? What if you’re living alone on an island? Those of you who have been isolated alone in your homes since the COVID-19 outbreak, may be familiar with this exercise of imagination. What would your sense of self relate to? Maybe you would simply value your body that carries you from one place to another? Or your breath which keeps you alive? 
  1. Respect yourself more than you respect others’ opinions. As Swami Sivananda, a teacher of Vedanta philosophy advises, “The best thing to give to yourself is respect.” What is one thing you can do today to show respect to yourself? How about writing down 5 qualities you’re proud to possess?  

Roses don’t try to be like tulips. 

Tulips don’t try to be cherry trees. 

Flowers follow their destinies by blossoming in the environments where they are planted. They display their colours and shapes at the right time, whether it’s sunny or cloudy. They spread their fragrances even when there are no passers-by to stop in admiration and fall in love with them.

In a similar way to everything else in nature, you show respect to yourself by being grateful for the qualities you were designed with. 

  1. Develop a new sense of what is possible

These unusual times are a good time for you to choose your natural qualities to cultivate in the suitable environments. For example, my YouTube Channel is the new environment where I exercise my storytelling skills. What could be your new environment? 

I’ll leave you with the following quote of the British playwright George Bernard Shaw, “You see things as they are and you say, ‘Why?’. But I dream things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?’ ” 

How Taking Part in Webinars can Help Us Increase Our Listening Awareness

What was that? Can you say it again?

Your mic is muted. 

I cannot see your screen. 

Your screen is frozen.

Have you recently heard yourself anything similar? These must be some of the most pronounced sentences by those of us who participate in webinars. The sound or video disturbances certainly affect our learning and engagement experiences.

In one of the webinars I organised, one of the participants struggled to hear with clarity my words. The internet connections of the other participants were good. So, I expeditiously suggested she’d log out and in again. In vain. I did continue the presentation but she eventually got frustrated and left the virtual meeting. Who can blame her? What’s the point of sticking around in a meeting when the communication is broken. Either you cannot hear what they say. Or they cannot hear your questions. 

We may be thinking, “I knew it that technology cannot be trusted! So looking forward to the day when we can meet face-to-face.”. 

An experienced teacher or speaker is aware that effective communication, where the takeaways are clear, requires frequent reviews of the key information as the presentation progresses. The repetition may be annoying for the active listeners in the audience. But there’s a good reason to do it. And the reason is not that the speaker is boring.

Dr. Ralph Nichols, who spent 40 years studying the art of listening, understood that people can pay attention for a short amount of time, which can be as low as 90 seconds. Every few seconds, the speaker’s words trigger some associations in the listener’s mind, in the form of new connections, judgements or other concerns. The listener’s attention is turned inwards, chasing a new trail of thoughts. Meanwhile, the speaker has advanced with the presentation and the listener has a gap in what she/he has heard. This is why it’s important to repeat the learning points over and over again. This way the speaker is helping the listener to stay on the same page.

Effective communication in presentations and meetings is like a tango dance. Both the speaker and the listener have their share of contribution to keep up the engagement. In the end, everyone involved leaves the meeting being more inspired than at the beginning of the meeting. 

Let’s focus on the listener. What can the webinar experiences tell us about our listening abilities? A good listener is a person who can concentrate on understanding at three levels:

  • Facts.
  • Speaker’s feelings.
  • Speaker’s intentions.

It’s a reality that technology can impair our learning experience during webinars. But is it a fact that in person meetings will lead to clearer understanding? In face-to-face conversations, we are distracted by the instinct of finding some pauses when we would be adding our views. Whether present online or in person, our minds are the main barriers to understanding and learning. In a webinar, where we have the option to turn off the video and mute ourselves, there is a great opportunity to exercise our listening awareness.

Provided you’d like to improve your listening skills when attending a webinar, you may find it useful to increase awareness of what happens in those moments when your mind strolls away from the speaker’s narrative. There is a self-talk taking place in parallel with the speaker’s talk. What might the contents of the self-talk be and how could you bring your mind back to one of the three levels of listening, – facts, emotions or intention?

  1. You may be making connections between the newly received information and the information stored in your memory. You are thus getting new insights related to the topic. Jot down the new ideas and get back to listening. Or, you may be confused or having some doubts about the validity of a particular learning point. Rephrase these concerns as questions and write them down in the questions box. They may be addressed at the end of the webinar.  
  2. You may be experiencing some negative emotions, triggered by the way you judge what’s being said in the presentation. You can shortly write down these reactions, “The speaker said this … and I interpret it this way ….” Then try to remind yourself of your intention when joining the webinar. Why did you join? What were your expectations? There is always something new to learn even when the initial expectations are not met.
  3. You may be observing that you spiral down to a rabbit hole of reflections on the current life situation. Things that have nothing to do with the topic of the webinar become like a magnet to your mind. With patience, try to write down what it is that you’re worried about. “I am afraid that I will be jobless by the end of the year.” or, “Am I good enough to homeschool my kid?” or, “What is that bee doing at my window?” Once you wrote down the short notes of concerns, try to get back to the speaker’s narrative. “What is this person talking about now?” You can let go of the written concerns. How you are going to tackle them is something to work on when the webinar is over. Since they keep coming to mind, they must be important and they may want you to address them properly.

At the end of the webinar, look at the list of side notes: notes of learning points and questions, notes of judgements and notes of concerns. Which ones are predominant? You can congratulate yourself for being a good listener if the majority of notes consists of learning points and questions. However, if you see more notes of judgements and concerns, then you know that for the time being, your mind is quite distracted.   

Can you hear me?