As effective remote communication becomes increasingly important, how much time do we really spend considering the impact of our words on others’ wellbeing?

In times of fear and uncertainty, many of us can find it helpful to talk about the very thing that frightens us. Friends, family and colleagues, too, may want to process their thoughts by sharing experiences. But what happens when the language used becomes overwhelming and threatens our wellbeing?

Take the news as one example. The angles that many outlets are using to relay information are designed to grab attention and boost audience numbers. By now, phrases such as ‘pandemic’, ‘panic-buying’ and ‘lockdown’ have become part of our everyday language, and the result can be overwhelming and potentially detrimental to our mental wellbeing.

Social media is another example. In many ways, it’s providing people with distractions and aiding our communication with one another. But it can also have a negative effect on our wellbeing, as it’s almost too easy to compare ourselves to other people. It may leave us feeling like we’re not handling things as well as others, or wondering whether we should be more – more creative, more put-together or more into exercising.

For me (and I’m sure many others), communication about recent events is becoming particularly overwhelming. As someone who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) on a daily basis, the lack of control over pretty much everything can often feel too much – especially if it’s a regular topic of conversation. I’ve now made a point of avoiding major news outlets and social media sites and have even asked my family and friends to think first before they chat to me about the subject (something I fully endorse everyone to consider).

For the most part, they’ve been supportive of my requests – and have even taken to doing similar things in their own circles for the sake of their own wellbeing. Many have also expressed their own fears and worries about people talking too much, or in the wrong manner, about the same thing. For me, it’s bizarre and saddening that people who didn’t understand how my brain works are now starting to relate.

Things that are more fun to spread than panic: jam, garlic butter, positive messaging, wellbeing

But if there’s one thing we can take from all of this, it’s how to add the same level of consideration into most (if not all) communications.

Here are a few top tips – from my brain to yours – to help you carefully consider your words and think about the wellbeing of your audience – whether that be employees, colleagues or your pals…

1. Walk a mile in their shoes

This may seem like an obvious statement, but one that’s often difficult to put into practice. After all, how can you know what you don’t know? The key is putting yourself in the place of your audience before you communicate. Simply asking, ‘how might this affect their wellbeing?’ or ‘could this be taken differently to the way it is intended?’ can do wonders to create a space in which you’re considering the wellbeing of your audience.

In general conversation, why not directly ask that person if they’re in a good place to listen before you speak? Nine times out of 10, they will thank you for being considerate.

2. Plan, plan, plan!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that spontaneous, unplanned communication is always better than none. Poorly timed comms can often do more harm than good, particularly if it’s delivered in a hurry without proper consideration for the language used or the impact on the audience’s wellbeing. Where possible, plan your communications to make sure they’re landing at the right time, and in an appropriate way.

And with your friends or colleagues, try to plan in calls or chats to give them time to prepare or decline the request for a better time. Suddenly receiving a call from a pal when you’re not in the right mind frame is likely to be less well-received than if that friend had simply checked in on the best time to call!

3. Adjust your tone

Knowing your audience is crucial when deciding how best to deliver a communication, but so is acknowledging your own tone of voice. Trying to lighten the mood with a terrible pun or a funny joke while your audience is in the middle of a panic will likely be taken in bad taste – unless you’re confident that your audience has the same sense of humour.

4. Try not to assume

Assuming that people are able to maintain business as usual in an unusual time is a big ask, and something we should all be more mindful of – not just in these strange times but every day. Try and open conversations with positive messaging. This might mean waiting a while to assess someone’s wellbeing before talking about a negative experience. Or perhaps starting a conversation on a positive note by chatting about a topic you know the other person is interested in, sharing something you’ve found funny or heart-warming, or even giving someone a compliment.

5. Remember: comparison is often the thief of joy

Many (if not all) of us have used social media to communicate something we’ve experienced or created – whether that’s in the form of a selfie, a photo of our dinner or even a picture of our pet wearing a bowtie. We may also have people that we enjoy seeing content from – such as those who inspire us, or our friends and colleagues. Having people we admire and want to emulate is one thing, but when this starts becoming a game of comparison then it may be time to take a step back and allow ourselves to acknowledge the impact this is having on our wellbeing.

It’s okay if you haven’t discovered a hidden creative talent, or baked a perfect loaf of bread or made the most out of each and every day. If you’ve got out of bed, brushed your teeth and had a shower you’re doing great – sometimes it’s the little victories.

Why it matters

When these things are taken into account, the impact can go a long way towards helping someone who might be struggling with their wellbeing.

If you’d like to know more, or if you have your own way of considering wellbeing in your internal comms, get in touch we’d love to hear from you.