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

VIDEO: Vehicle crashes through carport in West Kelowna

The driver has been taken to hospital with minor injuries

PHOTOS: Okanagan residents capture epic lightning show

A look at some of the best shots of the storm on May 30

Big White Ski Resort to offer rebate for pass holders after early closure

Next year’s pass will include a 20 per cent rebate

‘No tick is a good tick’: Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

The foundation’s president said all ticks that attach to humans and pets can carry various diseases

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Arena served Summerland for 26 years

Warm winters meant short ice seasons in early 1950s

Most Read