COVID-19 – I’m Listening, Mate!

We all would have shared endless conversations during social interactions in person or on phone with our buddies or other near and dear ones. We may even reminisce about some of those times spent among friends or family, vividly recollecting the joie de vivre of those precious moments. Perhaps it is time once again for each of us to reconnect but in the context of impact of COVID-19 on our lives. This is especially important when there are uncertainties about jobs in the aviation sector along with its inherent financial insecurity among each of us. The idea is not to unload our personal worries, not that they ain’t important, but to look after others whom we consider dear.

When we ourselves may be going through a rough patch, is it possible for us to become another’s wingman? This begs the question. We may doubt our ability, rather willingness, to be able to connect and engage in conversation with others. At times, we may even think such an attempt as futile while facing the grim situation around us without a solution in sight. Basically, emotionally drained with our own plight, we may not consider ourselves strong enough to support another. It may need effort and willingness to hold our hands out to another.

Yet, this is the need of the hour. We need to make a concerted effort to hold each other’s hands to tide over the prevailing crisis wrought by COVID-19 to nudge them to take care of themselves while staying positive. This is all about brotherhood, camaraderie and solidarity with those who are in the same boat as us. 

We may neither have nor do we have to offer a solution to the problems that may emerge during a conversation, since we are not a therapist or a doctor. Instead we need to fall back on our traditional crew resource management (CRM) practices, particularly communication. Communication in the aviation context serves the following functions:

  • provides information
  • establishes inter-personal relationship
  • establishes predictable behaviour pattern
  • maintains attention to task and monitoring
  • is a management tool” [1].

Without getting into greater details, in the context of reaching out to another colleague, whether a mere acquaintance, a friend or a family member, we need communication to establish an inter-personal relationship during these hard times. All we need to remember is to remain sensitive and empathetic while communicating. This primary aim is to connect with others to check about their well-being during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We may need to heed to any negative emotions or similar feelings lurking under the surface or expressed thus. This is the first step to help them manage the crisis by being with them. Basically, we need to listen. 

In order to listen to another, we need to follow the basic principles advocated by Erich Fromm, a renowned philosopher and psychologist, in his renowned treatise, ‘The Art of Listening‘. These principles, easy for each of us to follow while listening to others, include: 

  • complete concentration during the conversation
  • keeping our minds free of all intruding thoughts 
  • having empathy towards the other, and 
  • an ability to understand the other [2].

Thus, with patience and empathy, even if we may not be in a position to offer any succour, the listening may help those in need to unburden whatever may be weighing on their minds. Such unburdening could be the foundation of support offered to others when we are all going through tough times. Mostly such communications are one on one conversations, but if the other person seems, rather sounds, to be affected adversely by the situation, there is a role for formal intervention in the form of peer support or counselling. But how would we know unless we take the first step of checking out on our mates as to how they are weathering their rough patch! 

1. Kanki BG, Palmer MT. Communication and crew resource management. In Cockpit Resource Management. Weiner EL, Kanki BG, Helmreich RL (Eds). Academic Press, San Diego; 1993: 99-136.

2. Erich Fromm’s 6 Rules of Listening: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist on the Art of Unselfish Understanding. Available at www. Accessed on 3 Oct 2020.