Talk Through The Crisis

Humans are social animals, we always have been. We seek each other’s company, cooperation, and care every day. We did until crisis-driven social distancing became the rule of the day, at least. If quarantining feels weird, that’s because it is. Physical isolation, even for the soundest of public health reasons, is against our core nature. The best way to manage this on both personal and professional levels is to talk through the crisis.

Talk Through A Crisis

Humans developed speech about 100,000 years ago. 95,000 years later, we developed systems to put our words to paper. We are hard-wired to talk to communicate, especially through talk.

The fear center of our brains – the amygdala – activates when faced with a stressor like a crisis. For decades, this activation of our lizard brain was referred to as the “fight or flight” response. In recent years, the scientific community has added “freeze” and “flock” as actions to take under extreme stress, and our focus will be on “flock.”

By “flock,” we mean communicating with each other and using our relationships as a way to support each other. When we talk to each other, the amygdala’s response fades into the background, and the higher-functioning area of our brains – the prefrontal lobes – light up and come to the forefront. 

cross-section of human brainIf we don’t talk, we let our baser nature get the best of us. We lose sleep, have panic attacks, and self-medicate. It’s common for stress levels to be high for everyone during the coronavirus pandemic, and we don’t mean to minimize that in any way. 

All we’re saying is that “talking and flocking” is a much healthier response than fighting or fleeing, so talk. Discuss work with co-workers, bosses, and employees. Share your feelings with your spouse and your children. Talk with your friends and family. Talk with your business associates and networking partners.

And by talk, we mean actually talk. Not emailing, not texting, but verbal talking. In the age of COVID-19 we understand that face-to-face meetings are simply not feasible for most cases, but the phone is just as powerful as it ever was. One bright side to social distancing in the era of high technology is that we also have easy, free video chat at our disposal (more on the power of video below).

Benefits of Talking

The mental health benefits of talking are well-documented. There’s an entire mental health industry based around talk therapy, and communication amongst professional colleagues is key to any team’s success. But what is it that makes talking as important as it is during a crisis?

businessman talking on cell phoneBy talking through an issue, we are able to reimagine and restructure our situations by using relationships to link resources. Remaining strongly connected is a good predictor of resilience, which we will need in large order in the coming weeks and months. The quality of our communication will be paramount in reasoning our way through this crisis as opposed to panicking our way through it. Talking allows solutions to come to us.

This is also where the role of image begins to have a concrete application in this context.

Communication as a Component of Image

We talk about the “ABC’s of Image” quite a bit in our line of work. It simply means that there are three main components to anyone’s image: Appearance, Behavior, and Communication.

Our blog post on staying productive while quarantined goes in-depth on the importance of maintaining your professional appearance and behaviors while working from home, so we won’t do another dive into that here. We’ll instead spend the time breaking down communication.

Communication itself is simply what we say and how we say it. If we communicate effectively, we get our point across and, hopefully, get what we need. Like many seemingly simple concepts, it’s layered. Communication is broken down into three sub-categories, each with percentages detailing how much power they hold in terms of conveying your meaning:

  • Body language/facial expressions: 70%
  • Tone of voice: 20%
  • Actual words used: 10%

man making video call on tabletYes, you read that correctly: about 70% of your meaning lies in your body language and your facial expression. Potential tech issues aside, this is why it’s easiest to communicate your meaning to others in a video chat in the absence of a physical meeting. 

You can see that tone of voice is about twice as impactful as the words you use. This is not to say that word choice isn’t important – it is – but most of us can recall a time when we misinterpreted an email or text, then settled it over a quick phone call. 

It was easier, in part, because we were able to use our tone of voice in conveying our meaning.

Crisis Mode: Respond or React?

This is a challenging time for businesses, individuals, and households alike. There’s a lot that’s out of most people’s control, but we can manage our response to this crisis: are we going to panic and react, or are we going to breathe, reason, and respond

Ironic as it is, in this time of social distancing, we need each other more than ever. By maintaining our relationships through talk, we enable the fear center in the brain to take a backseat, and let our higher functioning do the driving. 

It’s not the time to freeze or flee. This is the time to talk through the crisis and flock, and we’ll be better off for it. Even remotely, we’re available at 215-253-5905 and info@henrydavidsen.com. Give us a call, we’re here to talk about anything that might be on your mind!

Lastly, we strongly encourage you to take a look at Career Wardrobe’s OutFIT for Work campaign, and donate if you can.

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