I was reminded at our Health Scrutiny Committee meeting this week of the following blog post I wrote back in 2015 titled ‘Put love in your tea and other TNTs‘.

As a committee we had invited representatives from the LGBT Foundation to come talk to us about health improvement interventions for LGBT communities in Manchester, including the Greater Manchester Trans Health Service and Pride in Ageing.

As part of his presentation Laurence talked passionately about the importance of a person-centred approach in health and the need to therefore ensure that the LGBT community are made to feel comfortable in sharing their sexuality with health professionals and that health professionals don’t treat the LGBT community as a homogenous group. Laurence said providing appropriate healthcare to someone is like making someone a good brew. He is absolutely right, there is no universal agreement on what a good cup of tea looks and tastes like, you have to ask the right questions and pay attention to the answers. And when asked how you like your cuppa or about your potential health needs, ‘clear is kind’, as Brene Brown would say.

So here is my blog, from the archives, first published at HelenSandersonAssociates (HSA) website, when I was a HSA Associate.

Put love in your tea and other TNTs

Eve reflects on the importance of sharing likes and dislikes, starting with our tea, if we want to be ‘happy at work’.

You know if my cup of tea or coffee is just the way I like it – I’ll do that classic slurp and sigh combination of satisfaction.  If someone else has made it for me, that will be followed immediately by bags of appreciation.   Like other tiny noticeable things (TNTs), paying attention to how I like my tea and putting some love into making it, goes a very long way and I’ll do my best to reciprocate the gift with the same amount of attention and love.

There was a time when, if asked how I like my tea or coffee, I would have provided very little direction.  Have you ever heard yourself say ‘its fine, so long as its hot and wet’?  If so, did you really mean it? Perhaps you did, I simply didn’t give enough attention in the past to the experience to notice that not all cups were equally enjoyable.

Most of us develop distinctive preferences for lots of things but we don’t always tell others what they are. The extra effort that goes in to making a brew the way someone likes it is minimal, so why not ask for what you’d like?

If you’ve ever made a brew for someone else, you may have worried about whether you were getting it right; like most things, it is generally easier if you aren’t left guessing.  It is also far more rewarding to see the gift being well received rather than seeing the recipient glance down at the colour and unconvincingly say ‘thank you’!  Or to find it later, barely touched.

I’ve been learning to tell people what I like, starting with my tea.  And, funnily enough, the number of good teas I have has increased and so has the amount of love and appreciation I have for those around me.  Also the more I get used to saying ‘milk, not too strong, no sugar and a proper mug please’ the easier it gets.  It also gets easier to say ‘thank you’ afterwards – I struggle to say anything I don’t really mean.

I’ve also found that a good cuppa is more likely to be accompanied by a good conversation.  At first my mug just provided a good talking point but now I think it is because I’ve ‘given a bit of me’ so people are quicker to do so in return.  Sometimes the other person likes their tea or coffee just the same way and we subsequently bond.  Whatever the reason, I’ve learnt that it is well worthwhile getting over the awkwardness of giving someone such clear instructions.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t say what you want, at that opportune moment, you can plan another way to communicate your likes and dislikes.  A post-it note may do the job but you can also choose to be more creative.

My mug has helped me get into the habit of telling people what I like and to appreciate the tiny noticeable things people do for me.  I’ve subsequently learnt to seize opportunities to do tiny noticeable things for those around me, to include paying attention to how they like their tea.  I’m now quicker to ask people what they like and to actively listen to their response.  The more I’ve learnt about people’s unique preferences the more curious I’ve become about the world around me and the more keen to explore.  Who knew there were so many different types of tea or so many definitions of a perfect brew!

As the gifts keep flowing I wonder – can the answer to a happier workplace simply be a good cup of tea?!  It certainly helps, I am English, and a day without a good cup of tea was probably a tough one.

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