Going Swedish

12 June, 2020

Over coffee the other day, our colleague was reflecting with us on how the Covid 19 pandemic had affected her and our work. Our colleague mentioned that she was feeling she could be bolder in meetings these days. She suspected that this might be something to do with people in her meetings being more personable; asking how one another are through these difficult days.

It got us thinking about another colleague we knew in Sweden many years ago. We remembered her telling us that in Swedish culture, and being a relatively small population, no one would begin any professional nor therapeutic discussions with one another until they had first established how they were connected. They would talk until some ‘isn’t it a small world?!’ conclusion was reached, such as ‘my cousin and your grandparents live in the same town’ or ‘we both ride horses’ and such like. We remembered being touched by the tenderness of this custom back then.

Our colleague’s reflections today drew this memory back to our minds. Despite the particular experience and impacts of Covid 19 being idiosyncratic and contextually bound, the collective touch of this pandemic has meant that people are really asking and really answering the question ‘how are you?’. They are making connections at a human level before the business commences.

The Swedish custom of connecting before proceeding also put us in mind of one of the eminent person-centred psychotherapist Carl Rogers’ realisations: If I cannot find anything about my client that I can love, then I should not be their therapist. If we cannot find some form of loving human connection with one another, then perhaps we shouldn’t proceed together in our work. After all, how likely is it that our work together can be good if a connection is impossible to find? The good news of course is that we will always have an abundant number of connections with anyone and everyone sitting in front of us, no matter how hidden they may be, because we share our common humanity.

At MyST, one of our customs is to begin each weekly team meeting with two minutes of silent mindful awareness practice, and then a round of brief statements about who we find ourselves to be on any given morning. We may find ourselves to be a collection of tired, blissful, upset, distracted folks on one day, and a gaggle of restless, worried, happy, irritated people the next. The important thing is that we privilege our human condition first and foremost. When we do this, we feel met, appreciated and cared about, and we feel aware and sensitive towards others. We collectively acknowledge our equality as human beings regardless of the roles that we are about to enact together in our work.

We hadn’t realised until now that somehow we had formed our own version of an old Swedish custom. As we know, those Swedes know their meatballs…. we mean onions. Fancy going Swedish yourself? How would connecting before proceeding look in your context?

Jen & Jael

A Gwent Partnership Board Service