Interpersonal connections essential for positive mental health… Dr Harry Barry tells Shannon Chamber members

Dr Harry Barry (centre), pictured at the event in Shannon with Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber and Peter Murphy, marketing and CSR, Ei Electronics. Photograph by Eamon Ward

Having interacted with Shannon Chamber members in several online webinars during Covid-19, renowned expert on the impact of mental health wellbeing on our lives, Dr Harry Barry, visited Shannon recently to meet chamber members in person to stress the importance of interpersonal connections in the workplace. The event was held in Ei Electronics Centre of Excellence in Shannon and attracted a large audience.

While the pandemic and technology may have changed the frequency of interpersonal connections, Dr Barry said that connecting emotionally with other human beings is still paramount.

“One of the major consequences of the absence of these face-to-face connections is the damage done to our mental health and wellbeing,” he said.

“If we, or our work colleagues, lack such skills, we are opening up to the world of pain, which often accompanies mental health challenges. Positive emotional connections are also a huge bulwark against bouts of stress, anxiety and depression,” he said.

To demonstrate the role of verbal communications, particularly listening and conversational skills, attendees were invited to undertake several roleplay exercises. These were undertaken to demonstrate the difference between active and passive listening, and to give attendees an appreciation for the art of conversing.

Focusing in on the role of non-verbal communications, such as facial expression, eye contact, body language and posture, touch, and personal space, he said that those who have developed good people to people skills have a major advantage in terms of their ability to read situations, smooth over difficult interactions and run happier, more fulfilled teams.

“Emotional and cognitive empathy, an ability to manage difficult social interactions and interpret non-verbal cues are three major skills that everyone should have to be truly effective in the workplace.

“Great leaders possess emotional and cognitive empathy; beware of those who only have cognitive or whose smile never reaches their eyes,” he stressed.

Having read most of Dr Barry’s books and looking forward to attaining a copy of his latest book, ‘ The Power of Connection’, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes, said: “These connections need to be real-life connections, and not via social media. We all need to learn how to restrain our online activity and to learn how to positively connect in our work and personal lives.

“We look forward to facilitating more events of this nature with Dr Barry, particularly in getting this message across to our younger generation who are preparing to enter the workplace.”



Dr Harry Barry (front centre), pictured at the event in Shannon with (from left): Rosie McMahon, Shannon Estuary Way Retreat; Brian McManus, Clare Youth Services; Helen Downes, Shannon Chamber; Michael Collins, HSE; Patrick McMullin, Clare Youth Services; Peter Murphy, Ei Electronics; Jackie Leonard, Mid-West Simon Community; and Monica Byrnes, Rockhall Veterinary Shannon. Photograph by Eamon Ward