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Communication at work – be aware of the pitfalls of co-rumination

Although the feelings which come from being included and belonging to a team can be very gratifying, private conversations between colleagues about workplace challenges can lead to co-rumination and negative feelings. We offer 5 tips to help develop healthy interactions at work that increase wellbeing and avoid co-rumination.

 

Moan, vent, let off steam, call it what you will but it’s something few of us can say, hand on heart, we never do. At work, discussing a challenge we are experiencing with our colleagues informally can help to increase our feelings of belonging to our team. Few would dispute this being a positive.

However, such conversations can have the tendency to drag on and be repeated. The result is often unsatisfactory. We walk away not only feeling that nothing was resolved, but that time was wasted. We may now also be harbouring even more negative feelings about the issue or behaviour discussed. Scientifically, one possible reason for this is that our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol not just when we experience a stressful event but also when we ruminate about it.

So, what’s the solution if we want to benefit from feelings of belonging at work and being valued as a sounding board by our colleagues, but don’t want to experience the pitfalls of co-rumination?

 

5 tips to help develop healthy interactions at work that increase wellbeing and avoid co-rumination

 

  1. Keep communication regular – making sure you chat regularly with your colleagues can help you show each other support, improving communication and wellbeing overall. Chatting regularly also makes interactions easier and avoids the stressful feelings of only getting involved in negative exchanges when there is a problem you need to let off steam about. Although this will be easier in the workplace setting, it’s still possible, and all the more important, to reach out to remote colleagues who may be feeling isolated and unable to initiate such conversations within more formal exchanges.
  2. Be aware – and alert to recognising the difference between being involved in giving social support and participating in co-rumination. Signs of the latter can include the conversation being totally fixated on negative talk about an issue, with no discussion about any possible solutions.
  3. Apportion time – allow time at the start of a conversation for feelings to be expressed. Our colleagues are the only ones in our lives who truly share the challenges we experience in the workplace. Talking about them together brings benefits for us all. However, agree the tactic for everyone’s wellbeing that you’ll use a set time for letting off steam and then move on to looking at what you can do to change or improve things.
  4. Consider options – once the agreed time for airing your thoughts and any heightened emotions is up, move the conversation on to become one that is constructive. What ideas do you have collectively that are attainable to overcome the challenge or improve things, who do you need to approach, and what support would be needed?
  5. Stay with it – don’t let the conversation be a one-off. Share how you’re getting on with any actions you took away. Ask how others involved are getting on. As we all know, progress can sometimes be slow. So, sharing any successes boosts those trying to make a change. Asking how things are going helps us all feel supported.

 

Many other stress management, resilience and wellbeing tips are available on our website – please have a browse to find ones that work for you.

 

This tip appeared in our Autumn 2023 newsletter.  If you would like future editions of our quarterly workplace wellbeing newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please sign up here

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