Editor’s note: Cynthia D. Harris is founder of 8:28 Consulting, a Columbus, Ohio-based qualitative research and marketing strategy firm. 

2020 changed everything for many people. 

While collective grief affects many, certain subsets of people are impacted in different ways. As a qualitative researcher, listening to and interpreting key human truths from respondents of all types is a central skill that we all must work to finesse. As we listen to respondents to unearth truths, it is important to consider the potential backdrop of collective grief that may contextualize respondents’ experiences during research engagements. 

2020 tested us all in ways that we could never have predicted. From a global recession, to a pandemic that stretched across countries, to unemployment rates and social unrest coming to the forefront of our minds – we have all been jarred into a new reality.

Throughout 2020, many market researchers were forced to evolve approaches to perform agile research in an unpredictable year. From rapidly switching methodologies from in-person to digital platforms, to working with new groups of respondents, we have all had to adapt. 

Dealing with the collective grief of getting through a global pandemic (among other things) has affected our respondents in profound ways as well. In this article, I will share a few segments of people particularly affected by the collective grief of 2020. I’ll also offer ways to authentically connect with these groups when conducting research and interpreting data to guide your clients and your team members to decisions.

Grief appears in many ways. 

The killing of George Floyd in June 2020 brought systemic racism to the forefront – specifically its impact on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) people and communities. More recently, many watched in horror as the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., was invaded – some notin...