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)

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

The current state of the Royal Hotel. (Photo Contributed by Richard Leeks)
‘No one is willing to step up to take any responsibility’: Royal owners plow on with renovictions

Heat, kitchen appliances, doors, running water and WiFi have been allegedly removed

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
City of Fernie: New orders a challenge, but community is supportive

Mayor Qualizza said that the new public health orders were an opportunity to safeguard the winter season

Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.
Wilks reflects on new public health orders

Sparwood Mayor Wilks said that it was important to work towards a normal Christmas in 2020

(File Photo)
Sparwood implements new COVID test

Residents over the age of four qualify for the altered screening method

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix.”
Free ‘Hollywood Suite’ movies in December include ‘Keanussance’ titles starring Keanu Reeves

Also featured is the Israeli-made ‘Valley of Tears,’ a 10-part war drama

Most Read