Looking in the mirror

 In Blog

By Cat Harrison

All my life I’ve been told I’m a chatterbox, and my more reticent family members would tell me I was lucky that I could talk to anyone. I was told that I was born to talk. Ive tried to take this as a complement rather than a coded ‘ssshhh!’.

It is true though. Drop me into a party and I can happily small talk with the best of them, and by the age of 13 I already knew in my bones that the Public Relations world that beckoned me to London was exactly where I wanted to be (I hold my hand up and admit that, a child of the 90s, this was almost entirely down to Absolutely Fabulous. The reality differed somewhat. Probably for the best…).

So, communicating with people is what I know and love. But I can honestly say that when we were developing the content for this website – which hosts the most important things we have learned through Sign up to Safety – and reflecting on what the last few years’ had taught us about what did and didn’t help people work safely, I was in for a bit of a shock.

We have somehow learnt a lot of habits and behaviours when we talk to each other which are not always great…for example we:
Talk too fast
Interrupt others
Monopolise the time
Turn it back on ourselves ‘I know exactly how you feel’ ‘the same thing happened to me’…

Oh no. I, the ‘natural’ and professional communicator who is actually paid to advise others, was regularly doing pretty much all of this!

I’m one of those people who find that talking helps me think things through, which is fine. But I have realised that in my haste and enthusiasm I jump in and talk over people ALL THE TIME. I didn’t think that this could be silencing people. But now it’s pretty obvious to me that it was.

By reflecting on the advice we are giving to others and how it relates to me, I have become more aware of myself. It has helped me to pay attention to how I behave in conversations.

What was unconscious is now conscious.

This has given me the power to control what I say and do on a good day, and it is something I can ask my wonderful team mates to help me with on the bad days.

This knowledge hasn’t turned me into a different person nor would I want it to. But it has helped me recognise that what makes me good at my job is not just down to whatever experience and knowledge I may have. It is also about being able to sit back and be honest with myself about what impact I have on others, how my behaviour can help or hinder how our team works together and whether I maximise my chances of learning from each of them.

I am lucky to work with a fixed team of people with whom I have a long-standing relationship built on respect and trust. We make room for each other’s idiosyncrasies and see the value we each bring to the table with our different styles and experience. We have realised through trial and error that getting the best out of each other means letting us be ourselves, with all the good and bad bits.

I am acutely aware that this isn’t the case for everyone. But I do hope that whatever your situation, the information on the website helps you take a moment to reflect. In a busy world we can often only really control ourselves after all, yet this alone is immensely powerful. By recognising this power and by learning more about how we can help others to talk openly and connect more deeply with each other around working safely, you never know, we may well get the ball rolling on making the right safety culture a reality.

About the author;

Cat Harrison is the communications and engagement lead for the Sign up to Safety team, and has advised numerous FTSE100 companies as well as national charities and health-related organisations. Her expertise lies in the development of impactful campaigns, the importance of language and tone in connecting with people, and engagement approaches that motivate and excite people to take action to make care safer. She tweets @catharrison4

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