It has been a difficult week, but right now I am beginning to feel optimistic. I have had some tough staff support conversations this week. People are tired, after nearly two years they are still experiencing extremely challenging, often harrowing events. To top it all we seem to be suffering from a pandemic of intolerance and incivility. Some of the stories I am hearing are about people working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances and then having to face hostility and rudeness. What makes it worse is this behaviour is from all angles. It is not just one group of people, its from all of us. We are all bad tempered at the moment, and for good reason, but this short tempered and sometimes hostile behaviour is just making things worse. Incivility breeds incivility, when we get pushed we will invariably push back. I suppose I am guilty of a little bit of confirmation bias. Am I looking for incivility everywhere I look this week to confirm how I feel? Well yes, but there is a lot of it about, however that isn’t the only story there is a lot of kindness and compassion about if we/I decide to look for it. The place I work is full of acts of kindness and compassion, from a simple smile and greeting from a member of catering staff, to a nurse guiding a confused patient back to their bed. It is not just the hospital where I can see kindness if I bothered to look, it happens in the shops on the buses and just on the street. There are both incidents of incivility and kindness happening around us. If we choose to concentrate on how rude everybody is, that is what you will see and it will increase your risk of behaving that way. I know I have been guilty of being grumpy this week, I have tried all week to look for the beauty and kindness in the world, to create a balance and you know it does work, when you make a conscious choice to see the world differently it is possible to change your mood.
When you find yourself going down that one route and to be fair that can be down a incessantly positive road as much it is a negative one. We can be obsessed with being happy and not willing to acknowledge anything that be considered negative such as poor behaviour. This is just as toxic as being permanently pessimistic. Refusing to accept that anything is wrong in your world, and marginalising anyone or anything that challenges this. That is why it is vital to have that balance. So lets get back to what to do when you find yourself down either rabbit whole. The first thing to do is just notice that is what is happening. I noticed the other day when I was watching the news and seeing the numbers of infections dropping, I was immediately dismissive, and that this was due to less people being tested, and everything is still terrible. Then I read on twitter something that confirmed this immediately I dismissed it again, then I saw it in another source. At this moment I paused and realised I was off down a rabbit hole of dismissing anything that contradicted my narrative. What if my narrative is wrong? What if this new information is right? Just by pausing and viewing what is in front of me through a different lens will always allow information through your self imposed filter. I started to notice I was prejudging information based on what I wanted to look for. If I stop seeing information and events in terms of good or bad and start seeing them in terms of just information/data that can either be useful or not, then I can make better decisions about the world around me.
What I have noticed is, that this does not come naturally, and I keep defaulting to my biases when I am not looking. That for me is where using mindfulness has helped. As I keep defaulting I can notice more quickly that this is what is happening to me. Using mindfulness exercises helps me practice noticing thoughts and feeling rather than just being immersed in them. I can notice them come and go and say to myself…”Matt you’re being a knob again…” (actually I got this from Lisa as she has been known to use this phrase). Then I have a choice to continue, or pause and understand why I am reacting the way I was. It really does help me calm down. It does not stop me flying off the handle or making flippant comments but it does stop me from getting too entrenched in my views, and persisting in being permanently pissed off or toxically positive. If you want to try some mindfulness exercises I have a really simple 15 minute recording that might help. Just drop me an email or a message and I will send it to you.
A few months ago I wrote my own mission statement to help me articulate how I behave and how I want to be viewed. It encompasses my values and I find it really useful when deciding which thoughts and feelings are useful and which ones are not serving me well at all. I use it as my anchor, when I am feeling out of sorts and lost it is normally because I have drifted away from my mission statement. So I remind myself of it and start making decisions and behaving in a way that is aligned to it. Writing your mission statement requires you to dig deep into who you are and what motivates and drives you. It is incredibly useful and I would recommend you write one. If you are interested get in touch as I have two offers to help you write your own. The first one and the cheaper of the two is a recorded presentation on the steps you need to take to write it. The second and more exclusive option is a tailored 1:1 coaching approach where I walk you through how to write it and help you dig deep into what truly motivates you. The presentation will cost £5 and the 1:1 coaching will cost £50 (typically will take 2 sessions of 1 hour each).
So why am I feeling optimistic? Well the days are starting to get longer, the numbers of people in hospital with COVID is starting to go down and I am feeling cautiously hopeful that we will be able to resume our leadership programmes and do our normal work, especially as I have been told Amy will be starting to work with me on Clinical Supervision in a few weeks. So things are looking up.
Keep being kind and avoid being a knob. If you find yourself acting like a knob pause and ask yourself what you could do to help you stop.