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Keeping Positive When You’re Unpopular

negotiation techniques

For you, a teacher navigating their way through Coronavirus regulations and Lockdown 2.0, it’s easy to feel that the love for your profession has gone. From being hailed heroes during the Spring to be vilified in Autumn, it’s been a difficult journey for many.

But you’re not alone, not where Laughology is concerned. And so Sarah Creegan is here to help. From managing challenging parents to finding some time for your own self-care, she gives you her top tips for staying positive in the weeks and months ahead

But first, let’s present to you an unlikely but relatable ally - proof that no matter who you are, you can always enter the depths of unpopularity...

John Lewis - where has the love gone?

Question: What have the John Lewis advertising team and the teaching profession got in common at the moment?

Answer: They’re wondering where the love has gone!

John Lewis is a national institution. Towns with a John Lewis are the envy of those without. Back in August, when the retailer announced the closure of several stores, the news was met with sadness and dismay.

However, three short months later, quite a few people are upset with John Lewis. Why? Because of its festive advertising campaign.

One person tweeted that it’s ‘the worst Christmas advert to date.’ Another said that it ‘just about sums up 2020 for me, a real disappointment.’

And it doesn’t stop there.

Other people are very cross indeed with John Lewis. They’re livid! Fuming! Why? Because, during the advert, a little girl gets off a bus but the number and destinations don’t match - cue the outrage.

Comments on social media include folks saying that they can’t endorse the advert; they can’t get over the mistake; they don’t know what the f*** is going on.

Two things strike me about these reactions:

  1. Firstly, I imagine the creative team at John Lewis sitting round a table weighing up the pros and cons of the bus and deciding that, maybe the 222 does go between Uxbridge and Hounslow in real-life, but doesn’t the alliterative 2-2-2 to Tooting sound funnier? Let’s give people a giggle. No one will mind!
  1. Secondly (and ironically), although the advert encourages us to give a little love through random acts of kindness, some folks will just not be kind about it. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

What’s this got to do with teachers?

When schools closed down for Lockdown 1.0, there was an outpouring of love for the teaching profession which, even in pandemic times, was a bit unusual.

Parents were crying in playgrounds on March 20th.  Throughout April, May, June and July they were saying how tricky it was to home-school their children and how they had a newfound admiration for teachers. Some celebrities even recommended that teachers get a pay rise - a million pounds a year, no less!

When schools fully reopened in September, parents threw their kids at the staff, blew kisses (at their offspring, the head teacher, the site manager) and danced away in a manner reminiscent of Morecombe and Wise. Teachers were right up there with John Lewis and the NHS and all was well, for a while…

However, schools are now telling us that, over recent weeks, there has been less goodwill.

This is manifesting in several different ways. For example:

  • As parents can’t have those quick chats at the classroom door, they are sitting on little niggly worries. When they reach boiling point, some send lengthy emails full of emotions and complaints. ‘Why can’t the kids sing together? It’s a basic human right!’
  • Because parents are having to keep their social distance from each other, they are taking to the class WhatsApp to vent if, for example, their child’s reading book hasn’t been changed. This is whipping up others and creating groupthink.
  • Stockpiling food and loo roll aside, when COVID first became a thing, there was an ‘all-in-it-together’ mentality. However, over time, people are becoming more ‘me, me, me’. This is because we’re stuck at home in our own bubbles looking inward, rather than outward.

What can teachers (and John Lewis’ advertising team) do to get through this?

Keep things in perspective

Remember, there is still a lot of love around; it hasn’t all gone!  Most people adore the uplifting, feel-good message of the Christmas advert and the vast majority of parents really appreciate all the hard work of school staff.

Don’t let a few bad reviews or an emotive email spoil your day or keep you awake at night. Instead, read some of the positive feedback that you’ve had before you go to bed each night and to combat those Sunday evening blues.

Be kind

If we feel that people are being unkind to us, it’s easy to go on the defensive. It’s much better for our mental health and happiness, however, to put ourselves in their shoes; to respond with understanding and compassion.

For teachers, it’s vital to quickly resolve any difficulties, so that a positive partnership with parents is maintained. At Laughology, we support people to manage tricky conversations better. Also, to understand the art of negotiation, which can sometimes mean ‘losing to win.’

Negotiation image for blog 20thNov

Keep going

People are emotionally and physically tired at the moment. When we feel like this, we’re far more likely to let things get to us; to react in a disproportionate or irrational way.

It’s really important that we recognise when our reserves are low, and top them up in the ways that work best for us. That might be through signing up for an online dance class, or watching a rom-com, or going somewhere where we can enjoy acres of grass, woodland and lakes.

I’d suggest taking the 2-2-2 to Tooting Common ;-)

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Are organisations and companies just paying lip service?
Join some of the most interesting and respected voices in positive psychology for our Our Big Chat about…Thinking outside the tick box, inaugural webinar. Our two and half hour interactive event will look at the best mental health strategies for organisations, identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Dave McPartlin:

Dave is the Headteacher of Flakefleet Primary School.
Creating the right environment for people and communities to flourish

Sunita Hirani

Sunita is one of the BBC’s key equality, diversity and inclusivity experts.
Why inclusion is essential for mental wellbeing

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Cary is one the world’s most influential voices in occupational health and wellbeing.
Enhancing Mental Wellbeing at Work. Evidence based strategies for creating a wellbeing culture at work.

PSHE blog articles

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