By Heather Bourke

Most of us, if not all of us are feeling the strain at this stage, we’re tired of isolation, weary of our restricted lives, fed up of trying to be positive. But if Covid has taught us anything, it’s the importance of human connection. As we battle our way through another lockdown, the unrelenting news cycle and deal with an uncertain future and the lack of human contact it’s super important to remember the necessity of connection and conversation to keep our spirits up. Just when our motivation may be at its lowest, that is when we most need the uplifting and inspiring feel good factor of connecting with others, those close and not so close. Conversation is the glue that holds us all together. So as we start to see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of vaccinations, to keep us going let’s initiate conversations wherever possible.

Right now we can’t do face-to-face conversation in the way we used to with our broader community and network, only with our inner circle. But let’s focus on what is possible. Let’s turn this crisis into an opportunity. There are so many conversations we can still have. Because most of our normal activities aren’t available, many of us have more time than ever before for a chat. Use this time wisely because we’ll be back in the rat race soon enough.

Face-to-Face Conversations

Let’s start with your inner circle, the people in your home. We can still have face-to-face conversations with the people we are living with. You could say you’re already seeing too much of them or you could use this time to explore topics and experiences and things about each other that you have never discussed before. It is a treasure trail of possibilities. Design your own conversation menu. Think of interesting things you could find out about each other’s lives, beliefs, dreams, etc. Ask your siblings, parents, children, partners, flatmates, etc.

For those of you who are still working together, not remotely, if you still can have lunch breaks or coffee breaks together conversation can be a great way of boosting morale, sharing stories, focusing on positives, present and to come. Even if you’re working remotely it’s good to have little social interludes or official zoom coffee breaks to shoot the breeze and chat about things that are not work related. Why not up the ante and introduce really interesting questions or topics.

The next level of potential face-to-face conversations that can happen during a pandemic is when you are out and about in your neighbourhood. They may have to happen behind masks or at a two metre distance but they can still happen and those everyday exchanges with neighbours and shop assistants and strangers are more valuable than they have ever been. Connecting with others increases happiness, it’s as straightforward as that. Studies show us that having a simple conversation with a stranger increases wellbeing and people’s sense of belonging to a community. It is still possible to smile over your mask in the supermarket and say hello, to have a chat when you are out and about at the post office, the chemist, the Spar shop or on your walks. Those small ordinary but friendly conversations and exchanges are so important. They create lovely heartwarming interruptions in the tedious repetitive routines of our lives, from the drudgery of lockdown.

Online Conversations

And finally let’s talk about all the amazing conversations you can have that are not face-to-face. Now is your chance to video chat or phone lots of people. Stay connected with friends, family and neighbours, have those conversations online that you wish you could have in person in the pub or the café or at the kitchen table but have them nonetheless. This is how we can support each other to get through this. Even when you’re feeling a bit deflated or apathetic make that call. You’ll feel better, they’ll feel better. And it’s not just about people you’re used to having in your life on a regular basis. While I would highly recommend having a nice long meaning of life chat with your granddad whom you can’t visit or your best friend who lives ten miles away, how about we also use this time to check on the old lady on the next street who lives alone, just a short phone call once a week or maybe you’ll discover she’s the most exotic interesting person you’ve talked to in ages and now she’s on zoom and your weekly chats are great fun. Or the new immigrant or single mum, etc. You could contact your old school friend who moved to Melbourne the year before you did the Leaving Cert or your cousin in Kerry you hardly know or that colleague you got on great with who went to New York a few years ago and you somehow lost touch. The possibilities are endless. Join the jots. Go on some non face-to-face conversational adventures courtesy of pandemic downtime. They may not all work out perfectly but it’s worth a try. Take a risk, the worst that can happen is it’s brief and superficial but the best could be brilliant.

The Power of Conversation

All the good things life affirming things about conversation haven’t gone away just because of restrictions and the pandemic. In fact they are more valuable and vital than ever, to stay connected and feel good, to energise and boost each other, so reach out, be kind and inclusive, show you care, that you’re interested, celebrate life and all that we’ll get up to when the pandemic is over. Tell stories, share life experiences, passions, hopes for the future, plan and scheme, philosophise, reminisce, whine, laugh, debrief, explore, connect!

It’s never been easier to connect globally for free whether people are near or far, in Vancouver or Veracruz, Belmullet or Ballydehob, just a few miles away or in Brisbane or Beijing. Now that life is stripped back, many of us have the time to get to know old and new friends better, also family members, neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. This is a golden opportunity to deepen friendships and other relationships and renew old connections. 

Nothing lifts the spirits like a good conversation, tune into the power of conversation, whether face-to-face, online or on a phone call. Conversation is wonderful:

•             During a time of isolation it connects us and bonds us

•             During a time of downheartedness it uplifts and inspires us and allows us to process

•             During a time of lockdown it brings us on verbal adventures with other people

•             During a time of boredom it allows us to have fun, to learn, to hear new ideas

•             During a time of inertia it challenges us to stretch ourselves and grow

Get lost in a great conversation! Start a conversation! Stay connected! Keep the conversations going!