You have just undermined everything you said


You have just undermined everything you have been saying for the past 5mins!

I was engrossed in a talk yesterday about mental health. Very fitting seeing as today is World Mental Health Day. The speaker covered how we all have a responsibility to ensure better mental health in the future and how mental health is fast becoming as considered as physical health in the workplace.

As the talk drew to a close Ross Abbott asked the audience for two £20 notes.

In one hand he crumpled up a note whilst doing nothing with the other. Now at this point you probably believe you understand the lesson, so did I. But I was wrong

Ross continued to ask the audience which note was worth more. “They are the same” the audience replied. Ross made the point that although a person has gone through tougher times, their value in this world remains as valuable as anyone else. I thought it was a great visual demonstration as I am sure you will agree.

But. Ross then handed back the £20 notes to their respective owners. But as he gave the crumpled note back he switched it for a clean one and said ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’.

I will be very honest. This perplexed me. How can he talk about the value being the same and then switch the crumpled note? This surly goes against everything he has just said undermining his point. This was a valuable talk and one I hope had a takeaway or two for everyone in the room. Why jeopardise this by going against the principle of the talk?

So I challenged him this morning on a LinkedIn message.

When you gave the £20 notes back, I felt that swapping the crumpled note back for a flat one undermined what you had just said.

Could you make a joke instead? I.e. offer it back to the person and then pull it away saying ‘if you don’t want it I’ll keep it’. Having them take the note would be way more powerful.
Now, my challenge was not at all rude. It came from a place of love and I believe Ross understood this. But his response stopped me in my tracks.

I kept the crumpled note as you can never assume that others are in the place physically or mentally to accept it…. I was.
Initially ‘touché’ sprang to mind.

But quickly I realised how my perception of a situation had been incorrect. I had imposed my beliefs onto a situation instead of looking at it subjectively. I make no apologies for this. We are all learning as we grow. And I had not been exposed to this situation before.

So the lesson for me extended way beyond the original lesson. I ended up realising that even those who have the very best intentions can still read a situation incorrectly. They can still impose a belief system on unsuspecting victims and most importantly we still have a long way to go before we really understand the various triggers for mental health issues.

I was more than happy to be challenged back today. In fact I would go as far to say I felt better for having my perception challenged.

Only by talking about mental health issues can we fight it.

In the UK alone there are approximately 16 suicides per day. There are countless more people suffering with poor mental health. You could be working next to someone who is suffering with high functioning anxiety or depression or anorexia. The point is you just don’t know.

What I do know is that due to my exchange this morning I will be more mindful of situations. I will also continue to challenge people as that is how I will grow.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you happy to be challenged?


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