Talk it out

Clear your head in 60 minutes? For free?

Absolutely. Chris Barez-Brown believes that a ridiculously simple approach to mental-health and wellbeing will benefit everybody. He openly admits its not the answer to everything but it can help. He’s so determined to prove it can work that he’s teamed up with a leading University to run a research project to assess the impact of a Talk It Out session.

Why is this important?

A recent survey found that almost double the number of people in the advertising industry showed mild to severe symptoms of anxiety and 20% more likely to show mild to severe symptoms of depression compared to the national average. Think about that for a moment…

Sure, there are times when being in a service business requires you to pull out all the stops and there’s nothing like the energy of a big pitch or a game-changing project deadline. But the machismo image of burning the candle at both ends is long-gone. We’re trying to be good at overall wellness and have a work:life balance rather than what we have experienced in former lives; the presenteeism approach to success and the over-bearing stress of management changes and mis-management and working for see you next Tuesdays who see you as meat with laptops rather than human beings. So this seemed like a great opportunity.

How does it work?

You team up in pairs, walk outside for 20 minutes with one person talking continuously with no interruptions or questions from the other, just acknowledgement that they are listening and encouragement. Then after 20 minutes, turn around and swap roles. A group session at the end to discuss how it felt, things they learned – not the content of the talk, just the feelings.

It was a really interesting experience. Some struggled with the one-way talking for a bit but others really enjoyed the challenge of just shutting up and listening, suppressing their desire to interject or ask questions or propose solutions. Talking for 20 minutes was a challenge for some, not so for others, but everyone found they started talking about interesting things after about 7/10 minutes. Where their consciousness took them from the superficial to the items of substance.

Some quotes form people who participated:

“Felt like a weight off my chest”

“I feel a sense of calm after talking about things I wouldn’t normally talk about”

“I don’t think it’s solved my problems, but it has helped to organize my thoughts”

Universally everyone was enthused by the notion of being outside and walking. Just having fresh air, getting away from your desk and stretching your limbs and letting yourself go into a stream of consciousness was liberating.

I’ve asked people to think over if they would like to do it again. Personally I found it very invigorating. I also perhaps enjoyed it more and was able to talk more freely because of the partner I had and was able to talk about things that have been weighing on me for some time it seemed. I’d started 2019 without my usual zip and optimism. Since this day, however, I seem to have recaptured this. I wonder if I would have been able to go to the places I did with a different person listening? Maybe you explore different aspects of what’s on your mind? It would be interesting to do it again.

I can’t pretend it’s now a regular occurrence but I really would like it to be. I know a lot of our team head out for a walk at lunchtime anyway which is healthy but the structure of Talk It Out focusses the attention while liberating you at the same time. You don’t get to the same depth as quickly in a general conversation.

I also can’t pretend I now get away from the office every day. Years of ingrained habits including being a slave to the presenteeism and the ‘al desko’ approach to lunch with the ever-present ‘billable hours’ and ‘time is money’ mantras repeated ad nauseum from Finance Directors are hard to break. But I’m trying. We’re trying as business owners to create an environment that is a joy to work in. And work still being an important word. Advertising is hard work. It isn’t a place to coast or stick your feet up or for the faint of heart. But there’s no reason why you can’t do the best and most rewarding work of your life without being twice as likely to suffer symptoms anxiety and depression.

Talk it out. Go on, give it a try. Let me know how you get on.


Published by nicholas gill

Nicholas is the Co-founder and Strategy Partner of Team Eleven. He leads the strategic development of integrated marketing experiences to improve business performance.

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