Improvising at the Deep End: Negotiating the Unknown
Interpretation. Now that’s a very relevant word at the moment. When we’re left to our own devices, guidance can result in very different outcomes, influenced by each person’s own beliefs, values and ability to think rationally. We’ve seen evidence of that in the news, for example about what constitutes ‘essential’ travel, and the enforcement of social distancing measures by police.
It’s very easy to be critical of people not getting ‘it’ right but we all approach situations from different perspectives. Five individuals can read, hear or see something and all take from it a slightly alternative meaning. That’s what makes life meaningful. The danger of being too judgemental of people seeing different things through their own lens or who struggle to implement their understanding, is that micro-management may replace the ambiguity. There is a fine balance between allowing individuals space to own their behaviours, and dictating every detail. I know which system I’d rather be part of.
Search Light vs Spot Light
There is no ‘right’ way for people to think or behave but people tend to believe that their interpretation is correct and definitive. And the more intense the situation we find ourselves in, we find ourselves operating at high speed and formulating snap judgements. It’s fair to assume that some of those judgements won’t be the right ones, but as long as we learn from them and adapt, we can move on. We all need help from time to time to see alternative perspectives, particularly when we’re feeling stressed, our emotional arousal increases and we enter a state of tunnel vision. This causes us to use a spotlight to focus on problems rather than a wider search light. The starting point is to be aware that our perceptions might not be ‘true’ and that other possibilities exist. Take a step back and consider other perspectives, others’ motivations and others’ skills and knowledge in this new era. Many of us are on a steep learning curve and the sooner we accept we don’t have all the answers, the easier it will be to develop and progress.
At a time when most of us are attempting to make sense of significant change and are operating differently to our usual practice, we need to be patient. This is an opportunity to experiment, to try new things, to give each other space to take some control and to use initiative. We need to accept that what we do and what others do is not going to be perfect.
This is a whole new way of feeling, being, thinking and doing. If you’re a company owner, you’re likely to be focusing on the future of your company and how to adapt or simply hold-on. If you’re a manager, you’re now potentially trying to work out how to oversee a remote team and how to balance work challenges with emotional wellbeing, and your boundaries around mental health needs. If you’re in HR, you’re no doubt getting to grips with a whole host of tasks that you might not have been familiar with, or you’re simply finding overwhelming in quantity. And this is all before we put the additional challenge for some people of having kids at home into the mix.
There is so much advice around about how to ‘cope’ during the Coronavirus that the information alone can feel overwhelming. We’re being bombarded at a fast pace information that is intended to help. But we need to be selective and ignore some of the ‘noise’. Being clear about why something will add value is a good gauge; how is the advice going to make a helpful difference?
So, skim over the content of emails, LinkedIn posts and other information channels and decide what you want to invest your time in paying more attention to. Then digest your selection properly, interpreting it for your unique context, before working out how to apply it. If you’re not sure, talk it through. Explore ideas with colleagues, friends, family. Remember you do not have to have all the answers. And give me or your coach a call to discuss how a new approach might help you and your business if you’re feeling stuck.
Last week I added to my blog daily to provide advice that, from my professional experience, makes a real difference to our ability to succeed in times of adversity. This is what I can offer as a psychologist. It is part of the big picture; it is not the whole picture. And it might not be relevant right now or at all. Take a few minutes to take a step back, work out when you have time, skim, select, broaden your perspectives and develop a planned approach to doing the best for yourself and your colleagues:
I’m happy to help! Do get in touch to talk about how the advice can be of help to you and your business. It’s easier to talk about new ideas and to explore them together than do it alone. Pick up the phone or drop me a line – it’s complimentary so you’ve got nothing to lose!