If you can approach a conversation with empathy you’ll have the best chance of getting your point across while mitigating conflict says Jessica Rourke, a conflict expert. (Nina Grossman/Victoria News Staff)

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

Walking through tight grocery store aisles, brushing past people on sidewalks or dealing with roommates who don’t take physical distancing seriously is causing people to stress and in some cases reshaping their lives quicker than they’d like.

Perrin Wilson chose to move out of the room she rented in a couple’s townhouse when the wife refused to stop offering eyelash extensions and Thai massage out of the home.

“She said ‘I’m waiting for the government money to kick in’ and because [she’s] self-employed it’s been a bit of a process,” says Wilson, who is taking extra precautions as she works in a long term care pharmacy. “I understand and I empathize with that — but it doesn’t make it okay, it doesn’t justify it.”

Jessica Rourke, an expert in conflict, says empathizing with someone is the first step to avoiding conflict in a touchy situation. Rourke has a doctorate in social psychology and teaches a class on interpersonal communication at the University of Victoria, along with facilitating restorative justice dialogues between victims and offenders of crime — all areas that touch on dealing with conflict.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Sooke mom faces ‘pandemic police’ for bringing kids to the grocery store

Since the declaration of the pandemic, there have been a number of social media posts ‘ranting’ about people not keeping their distance at the grocery store or on sidewalks outside, and Rourke acknowledges tensions are running high but suggests people follow two simple steps to avoid disputes and help others see where you’re coming from — “observing and listening.”

READ ALSO: People resort to home haircuts or #coronacuts as pandemic continues

Rather than approach someone with your evaluation of their behaviour and judgments, Rourke says a better strategy is telling people what you’ve seen that leads you to the conclusion.

“An observation is that the government has asked we maintain a distance of at least two metres from each other and if I’m standing at the grocery store and the staff have put down masking tape lines on the floor [I can say] you’re standing much closer to me than the line indicates.”

Rourke adds that if you can approach the conversation in a positive way and establish some common ground to begin with that’ll go a long way in getting your point across. “You could say isn’t it crazy how everything’s changed at the grocery store and one of those things is how close we can stand together and I’m noticing … — and then go into your observations,” says Rourke.

Then listen to what that person has to say.

Rourke suggests repeating what they’ve said back to them to help show you’ve understood and then state how the situation is making you feel.

She says approaching any conversation from a place of curiosity is the best way to show empathy. “So instead of wondering why the heck you’re doing this, [approach it from], I wonder what’s going on for you that this is the choice you’re making.”



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health and safety regulations to be followed by schools as they reopen Monday

Ministry of Education wrote a letter to parents dated May 28.

B.C. Court of Appeal upholds lower court decision on western boundary of Treaty 8

Several first nations believe the western boundary was and always has been at the Rocky Mountains

School will look a lot different, says Fort St. James Secondary School principal

The principal wrote a letter to parents informing them about what to expect at school on June 1.

7 projects in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake receive NKDF funding

Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society announced $139,702 in funding on May 29.

School buses for SD91 to start running from June 1

Parents urged to drop off and pick kids up whenever possible.

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read