by Jyoti Chauhan

This pandemic has been catastrophic for many reasons, however one thing that I’ve found is that my communication with some people has actually improved. I’ve checked in with people a lot more than I normally would. This is in place of seeing my friends in person and knowing what an overwhelming time we’re all going through. At the beginning of lockdown I had Zoom quizzes with some friends who I only get to see once a year. I saw them more in the first two months of lockdown than I did the past two years! It was lovely to catch up with people, to see friendly faces and to distract ourselves from what was going on around us by getting too competitive in virtual quizzes. I think perhaps because we were all going through the same uncertainties, the same fear and the same experience for the first time, it brought us together. I found myself being more honest with my close friends about how I was feeling about everything and found the same honesty in return. I know this phrase has been used too much as of late but these truly are ‘unprecedented times’ and rarely does something happen that affects the whole world and everyone that you know. I think that this has led to more vulnerability because we are all going through the same emotions and it eradicates the fear of not being understood.

On the other hand, some people think that they can’t be honest about how they feel because of the fact that so many horrific things are happening in the world. They think what they’re going through is minor or insignificant or that they shouldn’t be complaining. I think this rhetoric in itself is harmful to society and all of us in general. You are allowed to feel distressed about your own personal situation whilst being aware and being grateful of the things you do have. These feelings are not mutually exclusive. I think that there can be pressure to be happy all the time or to be constantly positive. This is also paired with the sentiment that you shouldn’t be unhappy because of the things that you have or possess. This form of toxic positivity is dangerous. It’s okay not to be okay.

It’s important to have perspective but also realise that your feelings about any situations in your personal life; whether they be mental, physical or emotional are valid. It’s vital to express yourself and work through your feelings instead of repressing them. Just because the world is going through turmoil it doesn’t negate or erase the personal feelings you have. You should be allowed to feel sad about situations in your personal life. You are allowed to communicate these feelings to people around you without feeling that your emotions are unimportant or insignificant. You should be allowed to express yourself without hearing the response of “Keep positive, there are people who are worse off” or “Don’t cry! Don’t get upset!” Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you and to say “I’m sorry that sounds awful – is there anything I can do?” You can’t fix everything for everyone and that sense of helplessness can be overwhelming. What you can do is be there for someone when they’re struggling and truly listen to them if they want to express their feelings.

Listening is an essential aspect of being a good communicator. Truly listening and focusing on what someone has to say or the feelings they’re trying to express is so important. This can include not filling the silence and letting someone have the time to compose their thoughts and feelings without interrupting. I also believe that empathy and kindness are necessary in communicating well. Genuine care and concern come across in conversations and enable people to open up and be honest and vulnerable whilst communicating with each other. This can also be conveyed through eye contact – maintaining eye contact and not being distracted shows a true interest in hearing what someone has to say. Tone is very important in conversations too as the way in which you say something can affect a whole conversation – even if you don’t intend to. Something that is meant well can be construed as patronising, judgemental or condescending if your tone conveys it as such. This can halt a conversation or create a hostile environment when all you wanted to do was to help –  this is why tone is so important.

We’re very lucky that we have so many different forms of technology to communicate with but sometimes the tone of someone’s words can get lost. However, as we’ve become so reliant on technology this is usually dismissed as I’m sure we’ve all had issues of miscommunication.  We’ve all relied on technology to communicate for a long time and especially during the past year. The sheer convenience of being able to see each other from the comfort our own homes means that we all have more flexibility and more availability to organise catch ups. Whilst the news is filled with the reality of the situation we are facing it’s important to balance that necessary information with moments of levity with your friends.  Moments where you forget what’s going on in the world. Moments when you’re laughing so much you can’t breathe. I think that moments of distraction and escapism are necessary more than ever. Especially when we can’t physically leave our houses to see each other.

We’ve had the chance to explore different forms of communication more than we usually would. I think that even though you don’t have the real life presence of someone sitting beside you, you can still convey all the qualities of being a good communicator. You can still listen with empathy and kindness and create an open environment in which people can feel secure and comfortable in being honest about their thoughts and feelings.

Communication is more important in these times than ever before. Be sure to reach out, to talk and to listen. Cultivate your communication skills. That’s what we like to do at Conversation Salons! We hope you’ll be able to join us at one of our future events. Until then…

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