Post-pandemic world: Time for Active Listening?

Mariah Loukou, City, University of London

In the post-pandemic world, I often hear phrases like ‘Oh! That’s not what I meant…’, ‘I misunderstood, I thought you said…’, ‘I thought you knew you had to do it…’. Learning and innovating are at the forefront of the educational sector. You meet brilliant minds eager to learn and change the world, ready to bring hidden aspects of our society into the light. But, somehow, this has been shadowed by impatience, unkind communication and pointing fingers. Is it perhaps time to think and reflect deeper on the issue?

Brené Brown, in the Atlas of the Heart, writes about communicating with one another: ‘Do we have all the information we need to form an opinion and respond?’. Would not we be better off listening to what the other person is saying rather than already forming an opinion before hearing what they said?

She continues to talk about a different emotion that seems to dominate the world right now: ‘Anger can be the catalyst for change because it usually is the emotional response for witnessing injustice and expressing pain. But, it is not the change itself.’ Change can come from genuine effort and hunger for improvement.

Back to my original argument, education is not just getting a degree. Education means advancing ourselves, our societies, and our minds. There is, or should be, the space to do that in the educational sector. Can we create a space where we practice kindness, calmness, and gratitude? Allowing the next generation to have a solid academic background and a strong moral and ethical compass that allows them to showcase their brilliance. So, we do not simply point to injustices; instead, we fix them through kindness and patience and make our institutions and the people who serve them happier and more effective.

In my everyday working practice, I put kindness first. Especially in written communication. Emails can be easily mistaken for being sarcastic, passive-aggressive or emotionless. So, I consider each request from the point of you of the person that sends it. I take time to read and understand why a request may appear with urgency, disappointment, or excitement, and I reply from a place that will support and assist the other. The most satisfying feeling is reading a ‘thank you’ or ‘halleluiah, we’ve done it’ email.

Similarly, I apply gratitude in my verbal communication; I often say, ‘I appreciate your time’ because I really do. Everyone is busy, and when they take the time to sit down with me, I want them to know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. I feel that is important to express gratitude because I do not take working in a sector that allows creative intelligence for granted. And when the day gets hard and darker emotions start to take over, I take a deep breath, and another deep breath, and I remember that what upsets me is a drop in the ocean; it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And at that moment, I remember to be patient with myself and others. Because working life has its ups and downs, like everything in life, and that is okay; as long as it does not consume us.

My hope for the post-pandemic world is that we can lean towards patience and kindness, as the pandemic taught us that we could not take tomorrow for granted; because things change rapidly and unexpectedly.

Let’s start fresh; let’s start now.

Deputy Head of Doctoral College (Quality Operations) & PhD candidate in Military & Strategic Studies
City, University of London

Mariah has over a decade of experience in higher education, specialising in policy, governance and quality matters. She is currently the Deputy Head of the Doctoral College, overseeing the quality of research degrees, which includes developing programme specifications, systems and processes to support the early career researcher journey. She is also completing her PhD in Military & Strategic Studies and has published peer-reviewed articles in academic journals in the US and Canada.

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