Communication must look different during this time of global unrest.
Man, what a crazy month.
The COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing, and various parts of the world are under orders to stay home, including my home state of Louisiana.
Healthcare workers around the world are going through a tremendous ordeal, yet the reality of the situation seems not to always click. I live in the New Orleans area, and we’ve had several thousand cases. Still, there are some days where I don’t think of what’s going on for hours at a time.
I worked from home intermittently before the governor told folks to stay home, so it wasn’t that big a transition. We even homeschool, so it’s not unusual to have the kids around.
Still, this is not “normal” life. “Business as usual” is done for a while, and we have to adjust in every arena.
Think about how you’re interacting with family and friends right now. Does any phone or online conversation you have not somehow bring up the context of the pandemic’s impact on our society or economy?
Whether your part of the world is staying home right now or is just having trouble finding items that you never thought would be an issue, your life is somewhat different.
Even the basic pace of my business interactions are changing. Every conversation I have right now takes time to focus on how everyone’s doing. The project or task or request that was the reason for the meeting takes a back seat while we check in and make sure everyone’s okay.
That’s happening on all my calls, and it needs to happen in all of my interactions.
My mental checklist goes something like this:
- Ask, “how are you?”
- Listen. No, really. Take time to listen.
- Talk through the business need that needs to be discussed.
- Be ready for the extra detours in the conversation.
How Your Business Communicates Right Now
I’m not saying that you need to name the virus in every headline or subject line. Still, there have been fewer times in my life than now where the need for sensitivity towards the people we serve has been more important.
Lots of other people have brought this up in the past few weeks, but there’s a weird sort of fatigue and relaxation that’s developed towards this scenario. If you’re fortunate enough not to have the COVID-19 virus in your house, then you may be doing what you can to limit your intake of information about the disease for the sake of your mental health. (I know I am!)
As we do this dance of trying to stay informed but not obsessive, we try to set the pandemic to the side to go on with the rest of our day. That “mental distancing” is where we can get ourselves in trouble.
People’s lives are being turned upside down for a whole host of reasons. Every industry is impacted. We may not need to name the virus, but we must be aware of people’s current challenges. More importantly, is there a way that we can help people where they are today?
That’s the message we have to focus on. That’s what we need to get across.
It starts with a lot of listening, and it may mean thinking in very new ways. I’m already encouraged by so many wonderful stories of businesses and communities figuring out new ways to contribute. I look forward to hearing your story.