5 May 2020
The fourth piece in our series of responses to prompt cards from our resource Navigating with Kindness comes from Artist, Researcher and People United associate, Sue Mayo.
We asked Sue to consider the card “Connect, Check and Communicate” which is pictured above, along with the following prompts:
Think about how you are building and maintaining clarity of communication in a time of social distancing.
Are you working harder at communicating during this time, or have physical barriers opened up new ways of connecting? Can you still communicate clearly about what you expect of others? Think about whether you still know what is expected of you? Are you able to reach collective understanding and align expectations?
Sue wrote the following piece in response, which reminds us of the importance of empathy in communication- considering what others may be going through and how a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely the answer…
Since the beginning of lockdown I’ve been sending a postcard every day. Of course I didn’t know how many days I was committing myself to, but it has become a ritual. I started with family and close friends; since then I have gone into my address book and discovered old friends I haven’t been in touch with for a while. Colleagues and acquaintances have asked to be added. Like everyone, I am living with an underlying current of worry and sadness, and there was a day when I didn’t want to get up. But posting the daily postcard has become part of my morning routine, on the way to the park with the dog, so I made the effort. It is a way, for me, of visualising the connections that exist between so many people and me.
So, the first thing this prompt made me think about was the importance of remembering, and bringing to our attention, the connections that we are part of. We must continue to trace the links between ourselves and others, or they will get overgrown, like neglected rights of way. As the late, great Ken Campbell used to say, “You won’t find the self in a filing cabinet under S! You have to astound the self into being!”. We keep the connections awake by using them, by ‘astounding them into being’.
But, like many people, I’m living in a land of slightly unreliable communication, in a digital sense. Not everyone has a laptop, good wifi. I know people sharing a computer with 4 flatmates, or managing online work alongside caring responsibilities. In the community project that I was running, we want to keep in touch, and only half the participants have access to the internet. We’ll be using email, phone calls and letters. The territory is not even. But even more importantly, the incredible gift of being able to talk and to see each other online can leave us feeling lonelier, less in touch. I’ve heard people talk about the face they ‘put on’ for online meetings, and sometimes drop too quickly, before their screen is off. And I’ve also heard of people completely fuelled by the chance they had to talk with colleagues, friends and family and to see their faces. A Skype with my son last week kept me going for days.
This brings me back to the second part of the prompt, clarity of communication. The loss many of us are feeling, the loss of being with people when they are talking, and the chance to read more than the spoken words, needs to be acknowledged. We are learning new skills, opening up new ways to enliven the digital systems. We are remembering that it doesn’t have to be online. A letter, a postcard, a phone call to a landline, a smile, a gift might be best. However we do it let’s not let the pathways get overgrown, we’re going to need them!
Paul Hamlyn Foundation