Do you remember loom bands?
Quite the trend back in 2014. At least, if you were a kid!
Just in case you didn’t know, hadn’t noticed or tried so hard to ignore them that you now don’t remember – these were little coloured elastic bands that could be twisted and joined together to make bracelets (and a million and one other things if you were so inclined). They basically seemed to be the re-invention of the friendship bracelet from when I was at school.
While loom bands were made of plastic (or rubber) and needed to be looped together on your fingers, or on a complicated looking loom if you were really into it, friendship bracelets (as I remember them) were made of coloured embroidery thread. We used to make them by tying pieces of the coloured thread to a safety pin. Weaving them together in all sorts of different designs.
I was very aware of the loom bands phase because one of my kids was besotted with them! I still occasionally find them lurking around in an old box!
Like many fads with dubious environmental credentials they were popular because:
- Wearing them showed you were part of the club, that you ‘got it’ and were part of the craze.
- Making one for someone else showed that you also could do the ‘thing’ that everyone was doing. It was pretty cool to be able to learn a skill and then give someone something that you had proudly made.
- They were pretty accessible – even I could create with them and they weren’t expensive.
I liked the kind of mass communication of solidarity and friendship they represented. It is that shared knowing that was comforting, familiar and bonded people together.
Loom bands, and what they represented to many people, got me thinking about how communication comes in all forms. We think of communication as talking, writing or even listening.
In fact, communication is often very different to that. It can be about doing something to show you are paying attention. Performing a simple gesture that sends a clear message.
Not everyone is good at saying what they think; some people are just great showing their love through baking, or woodworking or creating art instead. There’s something very special about communicating your love or friendship by giving something you made to your nearest and dearest.
Using communication symbols to say something without words.
The kind of symbolism embodied in giving something demonstrates an implicit shared knowledge or idea. When you see someone with symbol that you recognise, maybe something from the same shop, some band merchandise or the same piece of jewellery (I guess loom band bracelets just about fall into this category) there is an instant understanding of the ‘badge’ that shows that you are part of the group. Us humans love to be part of a group, communicating in the way the rest of the group recognises and values. It’s all about those shared connections. We can show those connections with a variety of communication symbols, even with strangers.
For example, a visit to friends with children on the other side of the country was made a lot easier when both sets of kids spotted the loom band bracelets. It was an instant talking point for shy kids. They found, thanks to loom bands, a shared connection that needed no further introduction.
So while I’m not really the kind of person who is particularly down with the kids when it comes to the latest trends, I quite liked this fad. I liked the way it got people talking. The collective sharing of these small tokens. I liked the way that (probably thanks to my then six year old daughter) I was in on it all!
Many other crazes have since come and gone, and will continue to fill the world with random items that only those playing along really understand. As I stumble across yet another one in one of kids’ bedrooms (they do make very good hairbands!) I remember the fun they had.
And the importance of loom bands in easing uncertain children into happy conversations.
So how do you communicate using symbols to your team? How might you be able to use the power of communication symbols? To improve communication in your team and with others outside of your team? I’m not suggesting that you break out a pack of Loom bands, but being aware of the symbols that you might be using is a great start to improving your communication.
If you need a hand easing your team communication or to engage your team in better conversations, give me a shout! I promise not to use any Loom bands as our communication symbols though…