Am I talking or Am I communicating? Can you see the difference? I would suggest you cannot!

This has been something I have been thinking about for some time, it’s due to comments that I here often, have done for years!

Oh ask Helen, she’s not doing anything she’s only talking.
I have introduced the coaches but as you can see Helen is only here to talk!
Are you here to work or to talk?

Some of the very many comments I hear.

So let’s consider, you see me talking but I know that a lot of what I am doing is communicating.

The second of those comments was made at a club who was helping me host a taster event for over 80 out of school educated children, whilst the coaches were showing how to shoot, I was talking to parents, carers and children. Finding out what the individuals wanted, what were their concerns and how I could help answer those. Discussing specific needs around disabilities.

The first of those comments I have heard in a number of places but often when I am volunteering for Archery GB. At the Grand Prix, 2 specific examples – I was talking to someone who had dropped in to see me, but that took 5 minutes, the rest of the time was about why I volunteer and what it involves and how they might take part, how they register. Then how they could bring juniors from their club to watch the finals, how did spectators attend events.

The second example was me talking to an athlete who I have supported through some safeguarding and wellbeing issues and was feeling stressed by the occasion and some triggers. A very important conversation that I am not going to explain to onlookers for obvious reasons.

I can give examples of individuals when I am volunteering where I see archers upset for various reasons and I reach out, I have helped them in the moment and at future events they speak with me about how things have improved or they may be wobbling again and they remember that I am a safe person to reach out to.

Speaking with people at events allows me to help them get what they want from sessions, or to allow me to support those already shooting in whatever capacity they need might be a quick hug for reassurance or it might be a safeguarding issue.

At a recent event, sat chatting with a group whilst coaches were introducing people to archery we talked about some ideas they had for groups and activities they wanted going forward but also the conversation flowed around and we spoke of domestic violence, bereavement and mental health to name a few topics. How sport can empower and help change lives. I have seen this in sessions that I have put on for a group from refuge and a group of foster children through to the education project and disabled people who have asked for help to access sport.

Just Monday I was speaking to a lady who felt she might find help with her mental health and grief following the loss of her dad in December, just 2 weeks before I lost dad – we stood in the middle of the field crying and hugging.

All of the things I do see me chat a little but communicate a lot. Without a doubt the conversations I have are I think, rare on a range and definitely part of who I am, I have been told more than once that I “attract these conversations”. I don’t see that as a bad thing, it is without a doubt in part due to my personal and professional experience and my willingness to be me, to put myself out there and be vulnerable because that’s what some of those conversations do.

Some of these topics are heavy and emotionally draining some make me buzz and the excitement makes me bounce with ideas – something those around me find draining and some try to quiet me.

All that I ask is, if you see me talking, stop and think, ask yourself am I talking or am I communicating?

I can tell you that when they have been draining to hear “she’s only talking” is demoralising. If I have achieved something and someone was taking the time to thank me – to hear it is demotivating and has on more than one occasion made me considering walking off the range and wondering why I bother, because some of these conversations make me vulnerable so to be dismissed because you saw me talking hurts, some days – a lot.

So ask yourself next time do you need to say it? It might seem harmless to you, but it stings! Please do not dismiss what is happening when “Helen is just talking”!