Want the best advice on coping in a pandemic? Listen to yourself

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Rebecca SchalmAt the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts rushed to provide advice and offer expertise on how to respond in the face of crisis. Much of it was very helpful – and overwhelming in its sheer volume.

That has subsided significantly. Perhaps consultants got busy with other things or ran out of things to say.

Or maybe, like me, they find it extremely difficult to publish broad-based counsel on what to do now, because this crisis has hit each of us differently.

I know from my coaching practice and from Zoom discussions with friends that everything from the country you live in to the company you work for, from your profession to your personal situation influence your experience of the pandemic.

Even how you are experiencing it shifts from day to day and month to month. What was relevant six months ago may be archaic by now.

My pandemic experience is incredibly boring.

I work from my home office, the same way I have for the past seven years. I talk to my client in Argentina via FaceTime, the same way I have for the past three years. I shop less often, cook more, get more exercise, see fewer people. My book club and not-for-profit board meet virtually. I only buy new clothes made from sweatshirt material. The hydro company tells me our monthly usage is seven per cent higher than last year. I voted in the provincial election by mail.

It’s so boring, uneventful and complication-free that I’m embarrassed to talk about it. That’s because a lot of people aren’t living boring, uneventful, complication-free COVID-19 lives.

The number of permutations and combinations of variables means this is a completely unique and singular experience for each of us. That makes it hard to know where to turn for help or how much trust to put in the counsel of others.

That’s because not only are you trying to figure this out, so are all the experts. None of us have had to deal with this situation before. No one is able to guide you from a place of hard-earned experience.

This is a time to get more comfortable trusting your judgment and listening to your inner voice.

We live in an age dominated by the philosophy of materialism, which holds that matter defines all things. In other words, everything that exists is physical and can be proven to exist. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

This world view shows up in business via our obsession with data and data-based decision making. Unless we can prove our point with concrete data, it’s hard to get anyone to listen. “I can’t tell you why, I just know …” is a very hard sell from the classroom to the boardroom.

But it’s a mistake to assume we need data and concrete proof to be able to make decisions, and good decisions.

Not only do you have a rational, analytical brain, you have an inner voice. We all do. I know when I ignore that little nagging voice operating quietly but insistently in the background, I usually regret it. When I stop long enough to listen, it usually steers me in the right direction. I’ve lost scarves and multiple phones by ignoring my intuition to double-check the seat pocket. I’ve recovered passports and relationships by listening to it.

Not only does your intuition work by drawing your attention to something your analytical brain is ignoring or incapable of seeing, it usually has your best interests at heart. It’s the voice that tells you whether you should trust someone. Whether what you’re about to do is a mistake. Whether despite all the evidence, there’s something else going on you should pay attention to.

This is a time to tap into your intuition. Listen to your inner voice as you work through the various decision-making quagmires in which you find yourself.

You don’t need to abandon data and analytics, nor do you need to stop seeking advice and perspective from others.

But there’s a pretty good chance that, unlike some other challenges and crises you may have faced in the past, you’re not going to find anyone who knows much more about this than you do.

And no one knows more about what you need than you do.

Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

By Rebecca Schalm

Rebecca holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has assisted organizations for over 25 years in building talent capability that enables business strategy. Prior to founding Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., she was SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer of Finning International Inc. and spent over 10 years at RHR International LLP.

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