Week 5, in the words of the Foreign Secretary, who at the time was deputising for the Prime Minister, brought hope that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Week 6 has shown that the light is still some way off. I thought, therefore, I would start this week by looking at the possibility of golf and bowls being two sports that might be able to resume sooner rather than later because it is feasible to practice social-distancing.
Many of you will have seen that the MP for North Warwickshire, Craig Tracey, who is chairman of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Group for Golf, is liaising with industry bodies and colleagues in government to ensure ‘that golf can return as quickly as possible with temporary rules, actions or measures in development to be implemented immediately once there is any lifting of lockdown restrictions’ is, I believe, a cause for optimism.
Yes, when we are allowed back on the golf course, the golf we play will be different: no handshakes, no bunker shots, no touching the flags, and the like. The important thing is that we will have the chance to reinvigorate friendships and to value them for what they are. The Golf Club is like a family: it’s a group of like-minded people who share a love of a sport. Like most families, we don’t all get on, all of the time, but we do have the best interests of each other at heart and I’m sure I’m not alone in missing the companionship that goes with being a member. This human need for companionship, including face-to-face conversation, is why, for many, the ‘lockdown’ has been, and is, so hard.
There’s a lot of academic theory which states that communication depends primarily upon body language. For example, according to Albert Mehrabian, a social psychologist from the 1960s, in his book ‘Silent Messages’ stated that where there was any ambiguity about the meaning of what was said, we looked to body language to confirm our understanding. He said that where there was any incongruence in that understanding, we took 7% of the meaning from the words, 38% from the tone and 55% from the body language. That’s why, for some of us – those of us who ‘wear our hearts on our sleeve’ – we can never hide how we feel, no matter how hard we try! When we read a letter or this Blog, we have to infer more from the words and the tone because there is no body language to confirm the meaning behind the words. This can explain also why organisations and companies struggle to communicate with staff and customers.
Body language plays such an important part in communication and explains why, even with FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and other video-conferencing apps, we still feel disconnected sometimes. In the course of a face-to-face conversation, we are able to read people’s expressions and pick up sometimes imperceptible signals that help us to understand the context and meaning of the message they are sending. We lose much of this vital information on the phone or over a video call. With our best friends, of course, we know enough about them to infer with reasonable accuracy what they mean in a phone or video call.
There is however another, maybe more important, nuance to our enforced isolation and that is understanding why some people are finding it more difficult than others? For some of us, the company of others is crucial to our well-being. If you have wondered why this is, please let me explain. Let’s start with a little activity.
Fold your arms as you normally do, now fold your arms the other way. How easy was it to change the way you fold your arms? Repeat the activity a few times, switching back and forward, until you can fold your arms both ways without too much effort. The way you fold your arms ‘normally’ is your preferred way of folding your arms. This is most likely to be very comfortable for you. This is a metaphor for golf (and life) before COVID-19.
Karl Jung, a Swiss psychologist from the early 1900s, a contemporary and colleague of Sigmund Freud, was fascinated by human behaviour and spent years studying and exploring the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate: are we ‘hard-wired’ to behave in a certain way or, is much of what we of what we do ‘learned’ behaviour? His findings were that we all have preferences which predispose us to certain behaviours.
When you were folding your arms, you would quickly be aware of your preferred and non-preferred ways of doing this. Some of us prefer the company of others as a way of energising: we like to chat through problems, we like to share ideas and companionship is very important to us. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those of us who get energy from being able to think about things on our own. The first group – the ‘extraverts’ – will find it very much more difficult without people to share experiences and feelings, while the second group – the ‘introverts’ – will be less affected by spending considerable time on their own.
Now, most of us sit somewhere around the mid-point – experts show this typically as a bell curve which puts approximately 80% of the population within the ‘norm’ – which means we can generally work across both preferences. That is, we can spend time on our own, happy in our own company, just as easily as we enjoy being part of a group, ‘chewing the breeze’. The big message from Jung was that our preferences are just that: the way we prefer to do things, a more comfortable way of doing things for us as individuals. We can, as you will have seen from the arm-folding activity, adjust to do things differently; the other way of folding your arms, while less comfortable, with practice, becomes easier. If you’ve never done a personality assessment to understand why you are drawn to certain behaviours (preferences), go online to www.16personalities.com. The assessment is free and it’s fun to find out a bit more about how you like to do things.
So, back to our metaphor. Just as we can learn to fold our arms differently, so we will be able to adjust, post COVID-19, to a new normal. If that means we play golf in two-balls only, but we are able to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the company of our friends, that’s something for us to be grateful about. At the same time, however, we must be sensitive to those who will remain shielded or who have to self-isolate for whatever reason. As human beings, we are immensely resourceful, and far more resilient than sometimes we think, so I’m confident that we will find a way to support our friends and fellow members whose golfing needs may not be, immediately, as easy to meet. It goes without saying that the Board and the CMC, with advice from England Golf and others, will be looking to see whether special arrangements are feasible to enable our more vulnerable members to get back on the course too.
The winner of the Name The Hole photo competition is Paul Speakman. Well done Paul! A £25 credit has been added to your member’s card. And thank you too to Alex for providing the photos. We will run another competition next week (Week 7).
The Spotlights on Wednesday introduced us to Phil Warriner [CMC]and Ben Hazzledine [Board], both interesting reads which, once again, I hope you enjoyed.
Finally, this week’s charity ‘shout-out’ goes to our own Steve Brotherhood, who is running a draw to raise monies for both the NHS Everyday Heroes and Autism in Kids. There are some great prizes and you can find out more (and donate if you wish) by going to www.gofundme.com/f/tour-caddy-experience-4-ball-competition.
Stay safe one and all.