We need to talk! A Convo on the Very Real Topic of Intention ≠ Impact in Conversations

August 22, 2021 by No Comments

The pandemic has kept us physically separated and emotionally drained. We miss the in-person daily interactions with colleagues, friends, and family, and in their place, we got added responsibilities, zoom gloom, and stress from our new reframed existence.

Educators are known to be the “cheerleaders” of students and their success. But since the pandemic, Educators felt compelled to accept the extra responsibilities of being the stable mental and academic support to students. After all – that’s what Educators do! But despite 69 percent of students saying college administrators and 78 percent of professors were supportive, 87 percent of educators felt the pandemic had made their jobs more difficult.

Over a year’s worth of virtual conversations and the collective grappling of this “new normal,” you’d think compassionate language would seem like an obvious skill to learn. But how can we be supportive when our self-care is on the line? Minor stressors have become triggers, and often, not knowing what to say in times of stress has become a default in self-preservation.

In a quest to help other Educators (and ourselves) regain strength in supporting each other, URep Abroad’s staff, Shawntia and Dawn created a “Pay What You Can” (PWYC) webinar to find solutions. Here is how the conversation went down…

When did you realize there were challenges in communicating support?

I’ve worked my entire professional career in higher education. Even my degrees are in international ed or higher education. So suddenly, I found myself unemployed for almost a year and a half and questioning everything I thought I knew about myself. It was incredibly isolating.

Exactly! I realized the struggle was real while texting with my IE friends and kept finding myself without words. Which is odd. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a person who cares deeply about others and wants to connect and be there for them. I’d receive text messages about job loss, workplace stress, enormous workloads, and struggles with work/life balance.

I’ve most definitely been one of those texters who shared about my job loss and my struggles to find work. One day I realized I had no idea what I expected from those people. Was I simply looking for leads? Did I want pity? I had no idea, and it forced me to refocus on myself to figure it out.

And for me, all the ways in which I connected with colleagues and friends (i.e., conferences, in-person meetings, retreats, travel, etc) were suddenly removed. Somedays, I was fine inside my bubble. Other days, it felt isolating as well, and alone.

How has going through one+ years of COVID changed how you communicate with others?

 I use to be the person that said, “Oh, don’t worry, you’re awesome, another job will come your way,” or “Hang in there, you got this! [insert emoji].” Now, I realize those blanket statements were rather empty. It took me going through the process of not having job opportunities and receiving those same messages to recognize, “ouch,” I was an “inefficient” communicator, not really a compassionate one. I owed it to myself and all the people I respected and cared about to be better. To show up for them!

I recently read an article about compassion fatigue in educational professionals. The article described how burnout is an emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can cause changes to our bodies and make us more vulnerable to being sick. After reading, I thought back to the moment right before the pandemic came down hard and how I felt overworked and in need of a cheerleader – or even someone to remind me why I matter too. And now, I realized I want to be the Cheerleader for others and so it drastically changed how I communicate.

What do you want the audience to gain from attending the webinar?

How to reclaim our relationships with each other by elevating them. Let’s add a few new tools to the toolbox. Educators are known for their adaptability, compassion, and care. It’s often the reason we chose this field. We are used to having the answers or knowing how to find them. What I discovered is that to show compassion, you just need caring words. You don’t need to have all the answers. I feel lucky that I let my guard down to you! And we opened up about what we were experiencing. I feel blessed!

As do I! It’s been amazing being in each other’s court this past year. And now that we’ve experienced this – we want the same for our audience. We want them to learn how to be each other’s verbal cheerleaders. And at the same time, I want our audience to acknowledge that there will be mistakes along the way, but as we grow together, we will also heal together.


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Dr. Shawntia Key is the CEO and Founder and Dawn H. Wooten is the Director of Business Development and Operations for URep Abroad. Read About Us and why your representation matters!

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