Suddenly uncertainty descended on us.
Across the globe, individuals from all backgrounds and cultures watched their world and way of life—and possibly their desired future—crumble under the threat of COVID-19 virus.
During the short time the 2020 Pandemic has been with us, we watched in shock as most, if not all, of the certainty of our lives was dismantled or vanished in our efforts to halt the viral force over which we have little control. Jobs lost, education curtailed, businesses trashed, professionals shut down, dreams dashed, hard-won triumphs negated, lives lost….
The war against the invisible virus redefined almost every aspect of society, the economy, and our lives in a few weeks. This reset continues.
The “new normal”—if there even was a “normal” in the first place—is living with uncertainty on a scale never considered possible nor experienced by many people—except perhaps those who’ve lived through a war or an invasion.
Your clients are dealing with all of this uncertainty, plus the loss of your supportive business offerings and possibly your presence. Compounded by their own personal losses and re-directions, this is suddenly overwhelming on almost every level from emotional to financial, from medical to social. Add to all this, the threat of illness, death, or carrying the virus to contaminate others. That’s an exhausting load of negative or destructive uncertainty.
How can you help prospects and clients manage this level of unexpected destructive uncertainty?
Obviously, any relevant constructive solutions you can contribute, depending on your field of expertise and type of products and services, will be valuable and valued.
Uncertainty in itself is not evil. Nor is this hovering unknown an “it” but rather a “them.”
Uncertainty can be either negative or positive and anything in between:
1. In uncertainty’s most negative extreme, uncertainty can be a powerful undermining force or destructive uncertainty, as described above.
2. In the most positive state, uncertainty is constructive uncertainty and can be a terrific motivator and driving inspiration:
- Anticipation associated with uncertainty believed to be good, great, or magnificent, is a thrill and an energizer. For instance, looking forward to a special celebration or an amazing opportunity.
- Anticipation of completion of a hard-won goal, like earning a university degree or successfully launching a start-up, is linked to the exhilaration of the compellingly-unknown and positively-imagined future ahead. That is, the future may hold graduation followed by a great career or ramped-up business growth and acclaim.
- Anticipation associated with the exhilarating uncertainty of each individual’s path from childhood to adulthood—growing up—is the joie de vive, the thrill of living.
- Anticipation of a better way, a better life, a better outcome…is at the heart of optimism, enthusiasm, and hope.
Before the virus, the future that lay ahead full of positive contemplation, dreams, and hopes. Now??
Uncertainty, where we fear the outcome, is hard to live with. Consciously, accurately, and constructively redefining destructive uncertainty to reveal related and less-stressful constructive uncertainty opens thinking to neutral or positive alternative outcomes.
Use your professional communication skills and expertise to assist prospects and clients. Help them adopt new perspectives and take constructive action, even if that action is as simple as staying separated during the Pandemic.
As a professional, how do you make your constructive point to clients coping with uncertainty?
Hollow “it’ll turn out alright” statements, groundless optimism, platitudes, aspirations, and parroted phrases may sound good to you, but without practical substance you lose credibility quickly and may be annoying. This saccharin, patronizing “just think positive” approach is like a mental sugar high which may be followed by a mental crash that could intensify desperation.
Dig into your professional expertise and, armed with facts, share the range of opportunity and possibilities visible to you and relevant to clients as their future relates to your offerings, experience, and analysis.
Five Starting Points for the Transformation to Constructive Uncertainty
1. Call on proven, effective communication tools—yours, newly-acquired skills, hired expertise—to provide personalized, clear explanations to consistently make your point with clients.
For instance, using a relevant metaphor that clients can easily relate to, can put the uncertainty in perspective. Make clear how the uncertainty can or will be reduced to enable them to begin to see the choices they have. These can be built on by increasing clients’ awareness of the actual issues at hand. For instance, you are not a powerless leaf blowing in the wind without control or intention. You are a rational, decisive person who can make choices about how to react, what you’ll fight for, and what you let go of as merely a distraction. Hope will grow out of despair if you open your mind to possibilities. That describes your clients, too.
2. Everybody seems touched by the Pandemic, but learn exactly what each of your clients really fear.
Unidentified, unspecified fear is overwhelming. What exactly is each individual afraid of? A common fear like the virus, will materialize very differently for each individual. Fear of which process, outcome, or consequences keeps them awake at night, intrudes on decision making, or paralyzes them with worry? Waiting to see whether the fear of infection or death becomes reality can be torture for non-medical clients. Your expertise may not cover any of those issues, but you know how to locate credible individuals who can raise awareness and reduce unfounded fear. After respectfully listening to clients explain what fears they have, decide what you can do to increase awareness and choice or arrange for another professional to do so. Online communication makes this easier than ever before.
3. Help clients clarify exactly what they might lose.
This may also involve other professionals whose expertise covers important issues raised by clients, but which are outside your expertise. Your experience may involve problem solving to arrive at financial solutions to minimize loss and stress. Or you may help alleviate the distraction of holding on to negative experiences and repeatedly dredging up emotional pain instead of letting go and moving on. Stick to what you know and find the best qualified people to explain other issues. Use humor with caution.
4. Normal was always the wrong word.
In the midst of the Pandemic, people often say, ” I want things to return to normal.” The illusion that normal is best for everybody persists. What others label as normal represents their standard, not yours, nor necessarily the best for anybody. Normal has often been based in the past, driven by bias, grounded in opinion, laden with agendas, or merely a gross generalization with little real value, however:
- Liberation from “normal” leaves us all free to find a new purpose, standard, perspective, belief…whatever your target clients prefer to ground their lives or businesses on.
- Instead of feeling society must dictate to you what’s right to do or not do, we may be free to set aside standards like “normal” and decide for ourselves what we want to do and why.
- Our very diverse, multigeneration populations may finally shake off dated, even old-fashioned, limitations placed on many aspects of life, many of them carry-overs from the 19th- and 20th centuries.
5. There’s no going back, just forward! Onward & Upward are the directions that really matter!
Across the globe, we share societal and economic despair at what is lost and disrupted, but the intensity and critical details vary with individuals and families and their context. If the virus has changed or even destroyed most or all that mattered to you or that you worked for, what’s next? Your choice.
The virus cracked open our “normal” global society. What is it opening up for you?
- Have you taken the time away from Netflix to think, genuinely think, about what aspects of your life you really miss and which you’re enjoying a break from?
- What work were you doing because you made a commitment or had not taken the time to see what else was out there? What were you doing for the money and little else?
We are all certain “the impossible” has happened whether individuals point to the Pandemic, the global shutdown, or both. What wonderful outcome did you considered impossible in your life or your future before the virus? And in your new future…?
“Perhaps you could now move to make that impossibility happen? For instance, we’ve been slow to genuinely adopt the credibility of working outside a traditional office setting. Too many—even those who “talk tech”—seem to ignore this practical application for the mind-boggling array of collaborative and other remote-access technology. After the Pandemic fades, there may be no going back to the cubical.” said PJ Wade, The Catalyst
1. For more on addressing your empathy for clients’ changing perspectives on their present choices and futures, explore our communication example based on the role of “home.” This type of approach is designed to assist relevant professionals express how they remain valuable to those they served without pitching, selling, or marketing…
“The strategic frontline for the war against the COVID-19 virus is our homes, therefore, we can all make a significant difference in how this war plays out. PJ Wade explains how the service of “STAYING HOME” buys time for the hard-working medical community and protects everybody.”… NOW: BV (Before Virus) & AV (After Virus)
2. For more ideas on the next step forward, visit these posts:
3. To explore on PJ’s work as The Catalyst, visit www.TheCatalyst.com