The month of October was declared Mental Health Awareness month with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.
An estimated 400 million people worldwide suffer from mental or neurological disorders or from psychosocial problems, which include disorders related to alcohol and drug abuse. Like physical disorders, mental and brain disorders vary in severity (https://www.gov.za/mental-health-awareness-month)
My experience over this last eight months was that every individual had a battle that they were fighting. The battles differed from no food or no job, to investments not yielding as expected, or being unable to travel or emigrate as planned. Absolutely no one was left unnoticed and untouched by Covid-19.
There were so much that we could have done – donating food parcels, buying food for elderly people, taking soup to healthcare workers, doing free webinars for small businesses, writing a free e-book on how to thrive in your business, helping individuals who lost their jobs to redesign their future, pro-bono counselling. The list was endless and only limited by our ability to think practically and by our motivation to make a difference in an upside-down world.
It is November, and Mental Health Awareness Month is something of the past. At this point in time we are trying to make up for our perceived losses – replenishing savings, rekindling business deals, reassessing investments, reconsidering emigration, reconnecting with the people we love.
I feel strongly that the time of caring for each other is not over, it just looks different.
One skill that can transform the world, is the skill to listen with intent.
To listen without comparing that person’s pain with yours or someone else’s.
To listen without feeling the need to fix or to save.
To listen without waiting desperately for your turn to tell your story.
To listen and keep eye contact.
To listen without feeling guilty.
To listen without being rushed.
To listen without judgement.
When we listen from a place of comparison, drama, judgement, or guilt, we move to a part in our brain where we become more guarded. When we move to a place of protecting ourselves, our thinking is laced with emotions and overwhelm, curbing positive and pro-active actions.
As soon as we listen from a place of love which is non-judgemental and open, we move to the prefrontal cortex where we secrete serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine which enables us to think clearly, creatively, and compassionately. In this place our biological state is changed so that we are literally more intelligent, and we can connect in a healthier and more constructive way.
In Conversational Intelligence the word “understand” also means to “stand under” someone else’s reality. To try and understand life from that person’s perspective. You do not have to condone or concur, only to stand under their reality.
As conversational partners to friends, family and strangers, set the “I” aside for a moment and listen to connect, stand under their reality without judgement. Be mindful of the fact that everyone is fighting a battle of some kind and know that by listening intentionally, you will make a meaningful difference in someone’s life.
This is one of the greatest gifts you and I can give to the world in this relentless time.