I love reading books and watching shows and movies that were set back in the times of castles, kingdoms and mystical creatures. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan as well as the tales of King Arthur. It may also explain why my favorite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail !! In many of these tales, you find a gargantuan castle surrounded by a moat.
The moat is a deep trench filled with water that separates those within the castle from the various things and people trying to breach it to get in. Moats keep one side from another and the only way to span the expanse is to walk across a drawbridge which is controlled by those running the castle. Some moats also have things swimming beneath the surface that are just waiting for some poor soul to try and swim across in the hope of scaling the castle wall.
It seems today that many people have built their own emotional moats around them to keep others out just like a castle. There is no doubt that emotions are running high because of all that is happening throughout society and around the globe. We all see pictures of those emotions on display calling for action, justice and equality. There’s also the reality that much of what we used to do on a regular basis isn’t happening. Socially, people are pent up and looking for ways to express themselves. We are realizing the power and need for intentional in-person human contact.
As workplaces try to figure out how “work” is going to look and evolve as a result of the pandemic, people are either eager to return or anxious of the unknown. At times, those can appear in each person within the same day, or the same hour. More and more is being written and discussed about self-care and the emotional strain which seems to be a part of every person’s daily routine.
In reaction to this constant pool of emotions, people are digging trenches and building their moats to protect themselves, their feelings and their thoughts. The ones I’ve encountered seem insurmountable. You can “see” the person on the other side in their castle, but it’s becoming more and more dim as the distance increases. This distancing is leading to more and more isolation. You may be aware of someone taking steps away from you. However, a person may be personally isolated standing in a crowded room and you’re not even aware it’s happening.
As humans, especially in HR, we need to check on others and see if they’ll let down their drawbridge and allow us to cross. Isolation may have its time and place to reflect, collect your thoughts and recharge, but those are usually short periods of time. We need to step in to make sure that people truly are “okay”. If they are, then that’s fantastic. If they’re just saying they are, but their behavior isn’t matching their words, I encourage you to respectfully press in. When you find someone who just isn’t willing to lower the bridge, you need to see if you can find resources or assistance to recommend so they can connect with someone in an environment which they personally deem safe.
The key to crossing any emotional moat is two-fold. (1) You have to truly want to make the steps to connect because you care about the others you’re trying to reach and (2) You need to consistently show others that they truly matter all the time, and not just because they’re struggling a bit right now. Moat crossing means making relationships. Relationships which are safe, appropriate, value all involved and are genuine.
We are wired as humans to be interdependent. This runs across the grain of today’s society which screams for each person to be themselves. You can still be yourself and have relationships that bridge the gap of the emotional moat you’re facing. It may take some time, and you need to be patient because some connections will move forward while others will remain as friendly hellos only.
This week look around to see how your friends are doing. Once you do, ask them to lower the bridge so you can walk across to have a chat, a coffee and some meaningful conversations. Don’t leave someone trapped behind a castle wall. It’s time for us to cross the moat !!
Originally published on the Everyday People blog.