“Good conversation is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” I don’t know about you, but I love a good quote. A catchy phrase or a few choice words can certainly improve your mood. But even if you prefer a latte, it’s hard to deny the power of a stimulating conversation.
We all know that good communication is an integral element to business success. Studies have shown that when a workplace focuses on good communication there is an increase in productivity and employee engagement. There is something empowering about a productive meeting. A room buzzing with activity, the gentle hum of constant chatter as thoughts are shared and problems solved. From one on one meetings and company gatherings to motivational letter boards, we are surrounded by the spoken and written word on a daily basis.
But could the recent global pandemic have highlighted the true value of not only words, but more crucially, positive words?
Touch has long been regarded as the most profound of connections. Even in the workplace touch is used for validation, celebration and general interaction, but Covid-19 has changed the way we live our lives. Social distancing is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. When we eventually return, the work environment will look very different. No more hugs, high fives, fist bumps, back pats or shoulder squeezes. Even everyone’s favourite ‘air kiss’ is a thing of the past.
But these ingrained habits are popular for a reason. They trigger the endorphin system in our brains and leave us feeling warm and positive. Human contact helps create a sense of comfort and well-being. In the absence of this, we have words. Moving forward we will need to verbalise a lot more things that we would normally express with touch.
At the beginning of a meeting, instead of slapping a few backs and shaking a few hands before getting down to business, we will rely on eye contact and a warm greeting. Thankfully, science has proven that positive words can actually strengthen our brain’s frontal lobe. A study where individuals read words of ‘loving kindness’ showed increases in self-compassion, mood elevation and reduced anxiety, while scientific research has shown that motivational quotes can make us feel the same as actually accomplishing something. And it’s not just us. Even the office plants benefit from positive words. In a study performed by the Royal Horticultural Society, researchers discovered that talking nicely to your plants helps them to grow faster!
Our ‘new normal’ won’t feel normal to begin with, but words and language used positively within companies, or by individuals working together, can impact morale and motivation, boost confidence and enhance performance. Positive reinforcement isn’t a new concept, but now more than ever, is the time for us to be proactive about creating small moments of happiness in our days. The way we interact with one another has been irrevocably altered. But while face masks and distancing will change the workplace landscape it doesn’t have to be negative. Whether it’s an encouraging comment in the corridor or an inspirational pick-me-up on a letter board, positive words really can make a difference and enable us to thrive.
These anxious and unusual times will bring unforeseen difficulties and while we can’t deny the need for positive communication, for those of us – like me – who will miss air kisses and fist bumps there is a socially distanced alternative. The Vulcan salute, will have to do for now. It worked well for Spock. Live long and prosper.