Over the past few weeks I have found myself waking in the middle of the night, catastrophising about the potential havoc this pandemic could wreak on our world, our country, my family and my business. The truth is, however, most of these thoughts are irrational and often far outside the realm of reality. But at those times in the middle of the night, when my wife is sleeping soundly and unable to provide me with a reality check, those thoughts can rapidly build on one another and lead to the kind of doomsday scenarios that might be the substance of an HBO five-part mini-series. These rapidly growing, seemingly uncontrollable thoughts are the by-products of what is commonly known as an 'echo chamber'.
An echo chamber is 'a situation in which people only hear opinions of one type, or opinions that are similar to their own' (Cambridge Dictionary). The definition references a condition that can arise when we’re trapped in an endless loop of our own thoughts, or when we’re exposed to the same information day after day that produces a biased, magnified, and potentially harmful effect.
When I scroll through my feed on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram for a few minutes, I’m seduced by the sweet, alluring song of the echo chamber. In these days of self-isolation, this bewitching trap is filled with many tempting rooms to choose from – the devastation of COVID-19, the blame game on the global scale, the political crossfire, the dire state of the economy, the chaos in homes and communities and the suffering of people. And although I know all of these topics are legitimate realities in today’s times, and keeping myself informed about them is responsible, I also know that I can lose hold of my own reality by amassing the worst of these narratives. When I get trapped in these echo chambers, there are serious consequences to my psyche.
One way I’ve been able to escape the echo chamber is to make the time to connect with others who are important to me. My wife (just not in the middle of the night), my family, my team, my colleagues, and my friends all play invaluable roles in keeping my lifeline extended to escape the 'chamber'. The conversations, news stories, and social media posts that raise me out of this chamber tend to have similar themes. They are moments of good news. They show people overcoming challenges. They highlight those that are offering help. And, finally, they remind me of what I have to offer.
Ironically, I wouldn’t ordinarily associate the word 'echo' with something negative. One of the main reasons why I don’t is that I have a dear friend named Echo who brings a voice of authenticity, calmness and centeredness to almost every interaction I have with her. As a tribute to her and as a way to provide some simple guidance to people on how to genuinely move yourself and others beyond the echo chamber, I offer this easy formula. I call it the ECHO formula:
E = something Encouraging or Edifying
C = something Concerning or Challenging
H = some way to provide Help or a need for Help
O = something that I can Offer that provides perspective or assistance
I’ve gained a great deal from people who have generously offered meaningful responses to these topics, and I aim to stay committed to inserting at least one, if not all of these elements, into most of my human interactions. At work, we begin our one-on-one conversations or staff meet-ups with this framework. At home, my wife and I lean into the ECHO formula on our daily walk or during our dinnertime conversations with our kids. I’ve found that by directing my own and other people’s focus to these underpinnings, I am brought back to reality, which has certainly made my nights much more restful. I invite you to do the same.
Share this with others and please let us know where you’re finding success in keeping yourself and others out of the echo chamber.
Impact are running a series of virtual think tanks and learning labs to help our clients and the learning community; encourage, share challenges, help and offer insights to likeminded professionals. Book a free event here.
Steven Giordano is an Associate at Impact Americas. Check out his website here.