The past year has been a rich tapestry. It has brought us enormous sorrows and also a renewed appreciation of the power of kindness. Another outcome seems to be that many people are experiencing a dip in confidence .
There is much we can do to restore and revive levels of confidence. One is to monitor what we say to ourselves. The inner dialogue has a profound effect on how we think and feel about ourselves and as a result, it makes a powerful contribution to our behaviour.
A useful assessment is to ask whether this is what you would tell the person you loved most in the world. If not, what would you say? More drastically, in an emergency, such as on an aeroplane, the instruction is to put the air mask on ourselves first before helping other passengers. The same principle applies – we need to look after ourselves and that care will spread.
Our minds and bodies are very closely linked. When we smile, the subconscious mind doesn’t assess whether or not we’re happy. It takes the instruction and sends endorphins, the so called “happy hormone”, round our system. The T – shirt slogan could therefore be, “It’s not that happy people smile more, people who smile more are happier”.
As a tribal species, human beings mimic each other’s behaviour. One of the best ways this happens is through smiling. Mask wearing reduces the impact, however it does not eliminate it completely. We can fake a smile with the mouth but when shining from the eyes it’s genuine . The poem ‘Smile’, attributed to Spike Milligan but apparently originated by a writer called Jez Alborough, is about starting an epidemic of smiling. It’s still relevant in these mask wearing days. When we smile with the eyes we pass on a moment of pleasure. Getting through the dips might just need a split second when things feel fine. Smiling can deliver that magic. Think about something lovely to start the process and everybody wins.
Smiling is infectious
You can catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.
I walked around the corner
And someone saw me grin.
When he smiled I realised
I had passed it on to him.
I thought about the smile
And then realised its worth.
A single smile like mine
Could travel round the earth.
So if you feel a smile begin
Don’t leave it undetected.
Start an epidemic
And get the world infected!
Removing Barriers Through The Mask
How can communicate better with someone when we’re wearing a face mask? I had two conversations in 24 hours with people who are struggling. One was with someone who is profoundly deaf, the other has hearing in one ear. In the first instance, I spoke to the woman’s colleague who was behind a screen, not wearing a mask and repeated everything I said. Although the slightly farcical flavour that developed around “thanks for your help” made us all laugh, it brought home just how difficult this is. The following day, the unerringly efficient and gracious Lizzie, who runs the farm shop where I buy vegetables, told me that she only has hearing in one ear. She finds me easy to understand as I speak clearly (good to know), however struggles with many others.
According to Action on Hearing Loss, there are 12 million people in the UK with some level of hearing impediment, 900,000 with severe or profound hearing loss and 24 thousand who can use British Sign Language. Although there are transparent visors, most protection against Covid 19 is with face masks to reduce the droplets from our mouth and therefore help to stem the spread of the virus.
In light of this, and after further conversations with people who appreciate far too well that the face mask / hearing loss equation inhibits communication and quality of life, here are my suggestions so that people with imperfect hearing are not separated from everyone else. Their condition may be either temporary or permanent, but either way, there’s no need for every interaction to be a struggle.
- Face the other person – it’s harder to hear someone when we’re looking at their back.
- Keep your hands away from your mouth – they act as a sound screen and block the information.
- Speak clearly and pronounce the words completely
- Pace your speech slightly more slowly.
- Be aware of background noise – music, chatter, traffic, roadworks. Increase speaking volume accordingly and don’t try to compete with any sudden bursts by the other source. If extreme, it might be easier all round to pause for a second.
- If in doubt, ask the other person. What’s better for them is best.
- Remember when we smile, the expression reaches our eyes. Smiling therefore remains an excellent resource.
© Candida Bowman 2020