I was almost at the end of my presentation when a loud shout* punctured the air, its volume belying the tender years of the one from whom it had emanated. I barely batted an eyelid, and nor did anyone else in this virtual session; after all, the audible and visual ebb and flow of lives is par for the course these days.
Rewind though a few years and I would have been a little discomforted (the memory of an epic temper tantrum from my 18 month old mid-conference call is still fresh. That’s one of the risks I guess of setting up your own business with a toddler in tow). And go back further and I would have been absolutely mortified at this perceived – by me, and perhaps by others, but mostly by me – lack of professionalism. I have written previously (here) about there once having been two versions of me – work and non-work – and any merging was a definite no, no. NO.
But as I said I barely batted an eyelid.
Because one thing that has emerged out of this period of our lives is authenticity: more and more, we’re just being ourselves. Firstly perhaps by accident, and now maybe by choice, we’re allowing ourselves to just be….well….us.
And this authenticity has become a recurring theme I have noticed of this pandemic.
Of course – in the example I highlighted – it’s in the many different ways we visibly share of ourselves: our lives, what matters to us, our priorities. The way we put other things first – home-schooling, caring for others, our health. For many of us, the thought previously of telling a boss that we couldn’t make a meeting or deliver a task because we had to help our kids with their studies would have felt daunting. Ditto, perhaps, having to stay at home because our own health and wellbeing overrides everything. But we’re starting to realise that this is ok. (More than ok, to be honest.)
And it’s in the conversations that we have. How often before has ‘how are you?’ been used not as a question but as a perfunctory greeting, warranting the response of ‘fine’ irrespective of what’s going on. Now though, things are feeling a bit different. Managers and direct reports, colleagues, staff and customers, friends, family – these days I often get the sense that when we enquire after people’s wellbeing, we mean it. And honest responses are frequently provoked by the question: after all, our levels of fineness will vary dependent on our own circumstances.
Communications too. We are seeing authenticity in the way that organisational messages acknowledge the reality of the situation and the impact it’s having on people. And also in the way that often communications have an increasingly human angle, revealing a little of the people at the end of the laptop. This authenticity is allowing for greater connection.
This is a good thing. Because not only is it ok for us to be authentic, to be ourselves, it’s actually better for us. Authenticity in our conversations and communications create a depth of understanding, and empower connection on a human level. It’s better for our wellbeing too; when we are able to share what matters to us, when we feel safe and supported to talk about how we are feeling and faring, our wellbeing benefits.
So as we emerge from this period of our lives – and we will – I hope that we can retain this authenticity.
*a shout instigated by a home learning frustration. Shout out to all the parents who have stepped into the role of surrogate teachers with trepidation – and the actual teachers who are keeping the resources and support flowing.