Use COVID-19 as a Wake-Up Call to Improve Your Skills as a Communicator

Last Thursday night, I nipped into the grocery store to pick up a few items.

Little did I know it was apocalypse in there!

I grabbed the last shopping cart. The aisles were filled with saucer-eyed, slack-jawed people rushing around with huge packages of bottled water. The shelves were empty in the tissue and toilet paper aisle (I still can’t figure that one out). Checkout lines ran to the middle of the store. (Thank goodness I always do the self checkout.)

The pandemic had come to Chicago.

Like you, I’ve gotten emails nearly each hour from every organization I’ve ever run into, telling me what they’re doing to keep me safe. And seen plenty of articles on what I should no longer do.

Yes: let’s be safe. But let’s also be better when it comes to communicating with each other.

First: don’t let panic shut down your brain! You literally lose 2/3rds of your mental capacities when in crisis. (See this short article.)

Second: know how to get your brain back if it’s gone, or you see someone else suffering from “amygdala hijack.” (Here’s a brief article on the process for doing that.)

Third: don’t put your brain (now that you have it back) on autopilot. It’s true: your brain is always looking for shortcuts so it doesn’t have to think too hard. But in a time when you may be working remotely more often, you’re likely giving fewer communication cues — and getting them back from others.

Take the extra time to make sure you’re sending clear messages. And give extra time and consideration to others who aren’t being clear.

Answer the question I often ask myself: “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be kind?”