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

Board chair says Chilliwack trustee’s censure results from ‘egregious’ breach of ethics

Four forms of reprimand for Barry Neufeld after his Facebook post about Dr. Theresa tam

Volunteers and donors behind Chilliwack’s boots and backpacks programs awarded

Principals and vice-principals chose Murray Honda, Staples and Canadian Tire for provincial award

Chilliwack RCMP support Special Olympics athletes

This year’s torch run aiming to raise $30,000 for B.C.’s athletes

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at an oasis on closed U.S.-Canada border in Surrey

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

B.C.’s labour minister should look at pandemic’s financial carnage amid minimum wage increase

The timing couldn’t be worse for any government decision that drives up costs for business, writes Jock Finlayson

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

Death toll rises in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

Number has risen to 22, making it the worst to date in B.C.

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Most Read