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Wedding Industry Mental Health – Social Media – The Mental Health Experiment

Wedding Industry Mental Health - Social Media - The Mental Heath Experiment

I’ve just completed work on a little Social Media experiment to explore digital empathy amongst a network of people I couldn’t possibly even begin to call close friends.

The purpose of this exercise was to discover whether people are more open to striking up actual, real world relationships with their digital “friends”, or whether we are in fact wasting hours, months, years of our lives connecting with other people we will never exchange more than a quick one word reply with.

How many messages do you get in your inbox from people asking, genuinely, how you are?

Tons of sales pitches! Sure! Tons of look at what I’m doing? Sure!

But a simple “what are you working on at the moment James?”…

Let me quickly check my inbox… oh, that’s a zero!

So my Social experiment started out like this…

I had (at the time of starting this experiment) 4,677 connections on LinkedIn. My goal, to message each and every single one of my connections to ask what they’re working on, and share an update on what I’d been working on to see if we had the starting blocks of some synergy – personal or work related.

This is a HUGE undertaking in and of itself. Plus, I intended to converse with every single one of my connections fully, if the returned response required as much!

So what happened?

It may come as no surprise to learn that most people didn’t respond or reply. Now this will be in part down to the sporadic nature of the way some people use LinkedIn. So it’s hardly scientific, which is why I’m not going to provide hard numbers. My question to humanity at large however is, why waste so much time connecting with so many people with whom you simply do not wish to communicate?

I’d say that’s a sure fire way to make yourself isolated in a sea of social obscurity. I’m online to strike up meaningful conversations with people, to grow, to explore, to nurture, and create opportunity.

The second largest group of responses was a kind response, detailed, often with an update of recent events and life experiences. To which I obviously replied in kind, reflecting on the stories shared and inviting further discussion on topics that would interest them.

I love these interactions – new developing friendships and opportunities await!

The third largest group of responses falls under the auto response category – you know the kind – a thumbs up, a “thank you” or a “I’m not sure” – the kind of responses that make absolutely no sense in the context of what I was asking… how are you? But subconsciously, are they ticking a mental check box by replying and satisfying their inner need to do “something”? Perhaps! I’m not here to judge, only to experience!

We never truly know what goes on behind closed doors, and it’s so important to remain non-judgmental in light of all interactions, good or bad. And I repeat, my experiment was certainly not based on judging, quantifying or even understanding, but merely presenting people I have made a connection with, at some point, for some reason, the opportunity to explore the relationship that we started.

And the third kind of response, well let’s just call them, non pleasant responses. Aggressive, defensive, antagonistic or egotistic. Again, not a judgement, but rather an observation, and no counter malice or even response is necessary or appropriate. Again, it just is. And again, I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the lives of these people. The digital veil provides a certain level on anonymity, and for some, it becomes an outlet for frustrations and damaged feelings. By contacting them directly, I’m open to fielding such responses as part of the human experience.

I’ve removed about 20 connections in all, which in the grand scheme of things, is a tiny percentage. Not because of malice or anger, but because I simply feel that there is no benefit to us being connected. There is no perceivable opportunity for us to explore a functional relationship – either online or offline.

So what does this all mean ultimately?

I feel it’s so important to keep our time productive and positive. The dangers of Social Media are ever present – the danger of losing yourself to scrolling, constantly seeking more approval and acknowledgement, or even living your life for the recognition of others. So many pitfalls, but so many opportunities too!

I’m in no position to begin to extol all the virtues or dangers of Social Media, and I have no intention to. But the outcome of my social experiment is clear and I wish to share it with you.

Everyone uses Social Media for their own ends. For me, it’s a way to connect with people I would otherwise never have the chance to meet. It is quite literally life changing. For others, it can be a forum for venting, an opportunity to express anger, even hatred, for others – and that may well be a way of connecting with like minded people and satisfy personal desires.

Should we rally against it? No, I don’t believe so. I believe that we should take everyone at face value and at least try to understand their motivations based on their needs. Every interaction supports a foundation of thousands of experiences and interactions. What you see or experience is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is not until a relationship fully develops that you see even the smallest amount of detail from the big picture life experience of that individual.

I’m going to suggest that the judgement of others does not make you happier…

And what would have happened if all 4,677 of my LinkedIn connections had fully understood my motivations?

Well I’d still be writing them all back now, that’s for sure! But also I feel we would have lifted ourselves above the norm and enabled more positivity to be created.

So if you’re up for a challenge – why not try my social experiment with your connections. I would like to think you’ll make some amazing new friends and open some fantastic new doors… and you’ll also come face to face with some less than desirable responses… and there’s your opportunity to accept those responses and people as fallible and human.

Online? Offline? We’re in this together and to quote my favourite psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, “contribute to life”!

Find out more about our philanthropic work with Wedding Industry Mental Health, get support or become an advocate here:

and let’s build a stronger Wedding Industry together!

#weddingindustrymentalhealth

Wedding Industry Mental Health - Questions That Help - Questions That Hinder

You’ve probably heard of “open questions” and “closed questions” and I’d like to get stuck into why these matter in the context of talking to someone who needs support with their mental health!

Before I get stuck in though, I’m also adding a third category to this list, and that’s “tagged questions”… all will be revealed shortly!

Talking therapies, as the name would suggest, are all about talking through your problems, to find different angles, different ways of looking at the same problem and often putting things into perspective.

But that’s not to say that someone else needs to take you there. I, and many others, believe that the answers already lie inside you, and you have the innate ability to find these solutions within yourself. It’s true, you may require some trained guidance to get there, but the path, the decisions, the direction of those talking therapies, should always be your domain. You should always have autonomy in your own decision making. We are not here to tell you how to think or feel. We are here to help in providing some structure and framework to your thought processes, and that is all.

Sounds overly simple? Well it is… and it isn’t! The nature of our work should certainly be simple to understand. The methods and levels of understanding necessary to facilitate it should be sufficient to perform our role to the very highest of standards. So we do the complicated, you do the simple. By understanding and being practiced at goal setting and talking therapy, we make the work simple for you to accomplish, if that makes sense.

So one of the ways we help you is to use “open questions”. Humans use questioning for all manner of things – like building relationships, seeking out similarities and differences, gaining understanding, learning, developing, knowledge building and sometimes just for polite conversation. The purpose of questions within talking therapy is to build a better understanding of where you are right now, and the factors that form the make up of your thoughts, feelings and experiences. We aim to get alongside you, rather than judge you or hand out prescribed solutions.

Our day to day language is such that we often don’t ask open questions, but rather prefer closed ones. For example, question “did you enjoy the film last night?”, answer “yes, I did”. Well that’s fine for the purpose of data collection and statistics, quantitive information… but does little to help us understand why or what exactly the other person liked about the film. This is the very information that would help us get alongside them and experience their points of view, thoughts and feelings – this is qualitative information.

So we could rephrase our question to be “what parts of the film we watched last night did you think were particularly good?”.

This encourages the other person to do a little more thinking to frame their response. Chances are you’ll get a much better understanding of the motivations and inner workings of the other person this way. These are the foundation stones of building a good relationship within talking therapy, and truly understanding the needs of the person seeking help and support.

Lastly, it is possible to have all the good intention of posing an open question, and then turning it into a “tagged question” at the last minute, through the use of verbal slurs and add ons. For example “the film was really good last night, wasn’t it?”. And now you can see how we’ve loaded the question with a desired response. We are literally requesting that the other person agrees with us. Try and catch yourself out on the next time you do this in casual conversation, and ask yourself if that is what you really meant to ask!

If you are a regular reader of my articles, you know I’m big on our tribal heritage dating back thousands of years, and the inbuilt need for us to remain loyal to these subconscious behaviours within our DNA. And so we often DO ask questions to get people to agree with us. We constantly seek validation from others. So when it comes to providing help and support, we need to lay these feelings aside, consciously, in order to be able to begin a line of enquiry that is solely for the benefit of the one seeking help. 

We ask open questions to learn about the other person, in order to understand their thought patterns. Once we gain this understanding, we can begin to reflect that same understanding back, and hearing your own thoughts and feelings repeated back to you by another person, is at the very heart of self discovery!

Interested in learning more?

and let’s build a stronger Wedding Industry together!

#weddingindustrymentalhealth

Wedding Industry Mental Health - If I Could Only - The Perpetual Disappointment Machine

I feel that as creatives, we fall into this trap! And I’m talking about this idea of unrealistic goal setting and unrealistic expectations of the results. We’re almost predisposed to think, act and feel this way. It’s baked into the very heart and nature of what we do. Let’s explore why that is in a little more detail…

Firstly, we’re dreamers! Do you agree? Art is the pursuit of crafting something that did not exist before. With the intention of it being provocative, or having some sort of influence, or generating some sort of response from other people. Some art may exist outside of this description, but I’m talking Weddings and the art we create for these special one off moments in people’s lives.

In short, I guess we aim to please!

And a good deal of our satisfaction is coming from satisfying our clients. Good feedback is so often more emotionally rewarding than getting paid. One settles the lizard brain – our survival centre, the other settles our limbic system – our emotional centre. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if the needs of our basic human survival are being met, then we’re organically compelled to satisfy more emotional needs. It’s essentially how we grow and experience life.

So here’s where it so often goes wrong! The root cause of so much agony, depression, dark moods and self loathing. I see it in people far more than I would care to!

Our human natures (and maybe possibly the pressures of our modern day society on top) ensure that we’re continually asking “what if?”. And an aspect of this constant internal probing is almost certainly compelling ourselves to believe that complete fairytale happiness can be achieved… if only.

If only I get 10 more bookings this year, if only I get recommended by that Venue, if only I get the chance to work at this Wedding, or for this client, or with this Supplier, if only I nail that one perfect moment or take my work to the next level…

The list goes on! The truth is, life’s a little bit more elastic than that, and the thinking doesn’t fit the reality! You’ve heard it said a thousands times, life’s a journey, the destination is less important than the journey, life is for living, life is what happens when you’re not paying attention, etc. And I think it’s true. It might not always be so easy to see things this way, but fundamentally, it’s true. We simply cannot control the near infinite number of possibilities that form the makeup of our lives.

Stuff happens!

Often unexpectedly!! And when we impose rules, particularly on ourselves, which don’t match up to the actual lived experience, that stuff that’s happening, well we perceive it as bad. And that right there, is the biscuit’s crux! The misalignment between what you expected to happen, and what actually happened!

I find that it’s best to separate the two states – predetermination and outcome, into distinct areas in their own rights. It’s OK to have a vision of what “could be”, but don’t be tempted to take this all the way through to “I’ll be happy if only…”. Because what in life ever truly pans out the way we expect, 100%?

Why not try this in its place? Enjoy the positive outcomes, regardless of your expectations and predeterminations. Live for what is positive and find comfort in that? We miss SO much in life when we allow misaligned expectation to rule our thoughts. Whilst we’re mourning missing the intended mark, we’re simply not in a fit condition to experience the good things that did, and are happening, all around us.

You’re not the best ever version of yourself today and you won’t be tomorrow. There is really no fixed destination on the horizon, it simply can’t be reached. There are goals, there are successes and there are failures. But not one single one of those experiences will ever amount to completion of all that you can be, experience or achieve in life. 

There should be no “if I could only”, ideally there would only be “I could” and “I can”.

Find out more about our philanthropic work with Wedding Industry Mental Health, get support or become an advocate here:

and let’s build a stronger Wedding Industry together!

#weddingindustrymentalhealth

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