I was working with a great bunch of managers last week, helping them to build the skills and confidence to engage effectively with challenging conversations related to health and wellbeing themes.
It’s a session that I’ve run for a few clients now, and I always start the day by compiling a list of all the things that team members have brought into conversations with their line managers. Here’s just a few of the things that team members have shared;
- Suicidal thoughts & ideation
- Self harming
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Domestic violence and sexual abuse
- Anxiety, depression and panic attacks
- Poverty & homelessness
- Relationship breakdowns
That’s quite a list isn’t it?
The one-day workshop, with role play practice at its core, enabled managers to explore the many facets of these tough conversations, developing their empathy, listening, emotional awareness, supportiveness, sensitivity and self-care. They’re demanding days, not just testing peoples’ skills and attitudes in these difficult areas, but also exploring their own vulnerabilities and experiences through scenarios that tackled issues such as stress, anxiety, self-harm, bereavement, depression, suicidal thoughts; all designed to reflect real situations and which were deliberately designed to be challenging and evocative.
One of the themes that always arises in these sessions is just how important it is to slow down, suspend our own agendas and get more comfortable with moments of silence. As we found in the practice sessions, moments of silence, while excruciating for some are comfortable and common place for others.
For some people the silence doesn’t signify that they’ve switched off, not heard us or don’t understand the question. Often those moments of silence are the time and space that people need to gather their thoughts; find the words to explain what’s happening and maybe even to find the courage to share what it is that seems so shameful or painful.
What we explored in these sessions were the ways in which our own discomfort or agendas can get in the way, and at times Perhaps the best we can do when it ‘all goes quiet in the other chair’ is to wait a moment or two to see what happens. If you feel the urge to fill the silence
The learning was powerful. The topics were live and real for people, often very personally. It felt meaningful, valuable and exhausting, in equal measure.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People commented, universally, that whilst the role plays were a real stretch, the learning was huge and people really felt able to test out new ideas and approaches. From a business perspective the feedback far exceeded expectations and with one business we’re now discussing how we can roll this out to a wider management population.
If you’d like to find out more about how we could help your own managers build the confidence and skills to be able to handle these tough conversations, please get in touch.