‘Befriend the Pandemic’: A Different Perspective on Current Events


Here, at NLI, we talk a lot about defying conventional wisdom, and instead heeding what research tells us. Core to that choice is embracing the importance of challenging the norm.

To that end, here’s what might be a different, and hopefully useful, perspective on COVID-19 events.

During the workweek, I serve as Chief Operating Officer at NLI. But in my spare time I also teach business unit managers and entrepreneurs at New York University’s Principles of Business Operations. Something I share with my students is the concept “befriend the naysayer.”

I refer to this saying in the context of sales. The naysayer—the person who is against buying your product or services—is the person most likely to honestly tell you what’s wrong with your product. You should befriend the naysayer and immerse yourself in their counsel in order to learn as much as possible.

It’s typically not an enjoyable undertaking, but armed with the resulting knowledge, you can (maybe) win that deal and, more importantly, improve your chances of winning future deals with them and other organizations.

This phrase “befriend the naysayer” can also serve as a guide for how we navigate COVID-19 in our personal and professional lives. By “befriending” the pandemic—that is, looking for ways its impacts can enrich your life in ways your typical experiences often don’t—we stand the best chance possible of emerging through the crisis in good health and spirits.

Here’s how you can “befriend the pandemic”:

  • Contribute to the resulting good. Governments and individuals are stepping up to help each other out. We can each do our part. We can influence what’s happening to us now and help each other get through it. We can create short-term goals; we can focus on the present and near future; we can help the millions of Americans whose livelihoods are at risk, by identifying our unique role in helping communities and our workplaces get back to normal. This sense of autonomy is extremely energizing, and we need it now more than ever.
  • Use the news to stay informed, not anxious. To befriend the pandemic, we should inform ourselves with the bare minimum to stay current, without stoking fear. Extract from the news what you need to make the best decisions with the information we have at hand. Use it to satisfy, as much as possible, your certainty needs (if you have them) and understand it is a shifting landscape.
  • Remember, laughter is (also) contagious. Maxine Hong Kingston wrote, “In a time of destruction, create something.” Take it upon yourself to look for levityinspire innovation, and create joy. Find a creative way to say good morning (I’m using Mirror). Collect and appropriately share memes. Science tells us laughter is (among) the best of medicines. NLI research also suggests it can build relatedness, an important social need in a time of isolation.

So, while we hope and pray for a speedy resolution, let’s befriend the pandemic, as we should befriend the naysayer, and prevail.

Author: Mika Liss

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