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  • Writer's pictureDr. Vin

Conflict Quicksand

I try to avoid conflict but sometimes it comes knocking on my door.

Someone posted an article on FaceBook about the increase in suicides in the USA since the Covid19 quarantine started. The article concluded that the increasing suicide rate justifies ending SIP (Shelter In Place) orders.

Here is some of my response to the person who posted the article: “This (the rising suicides) is distressing, however it is not an either/or situation. Increase in suicides does not justify ending SIP… (I advocate for more mental health access) …We are dealing with death either way, suicide or coronavirus…Both need to be tackled, one by safe distancing, one by access to mental health treatment.”

Here are some of the posts back to me:

“What about depression and suicide because of lost business…therapy won’t cure that…Please don’t be so close-minded.”

“…Also SIP orders haven’t proven that effective!...God Bless those trying to live their lives as they see fit. This is definitely an overreach!” (angry face emoji)

“…I could post lots of articles showing how SIP does not help much…If I talk of a devastated economy, I’ll be accused of thinking money is more important than lives…What about the lives lost from the side effects of the economic shutdown…Coronavirus…is not as deadly as first feared…look at the big picture…look at the real numbers.”

Being called “close-minded” stung. I also noticed a common thread in the responses to me, statements that, “SIP orders are not very effective or does not help much; coronavirus is not as deadly as first feared; look at the real numbers…”

This made me think that since these people believe the virus is not that bad, they would be more focused on ending the (unuseful) SIP. If you believe that, it makes sense you would look for and emphasize problems arising from SIP. This allowed me to better understand their point of view.

Chapter 10 in my book Communication Breakthrough, shares ways to stay open during conflict. The “Covering Technique” is one way to handle criticism. When falsely accused, you may feel angry and want to fight or you may feel shame and want to shrink away. Covering can keep the dialogue going. You can agree one of three ways - agree in part, in probability or in principle. The book has more explanation and practice sessions, but I want to apply it here in my case of being called “Close-minded”.

1. Agree in part: “Sometimes I can be close-minded…”

2. Agree in probability: “You may be right, I may be close-minded…”

3. Agree in principle: “It is true, if I believed that Coronavirus is not that deadly, and that quarantine is causing more problems than it solves, I’d be close-minded to not be more open to ending SIP.”

The goal of the Covering Technique is to stay in the arena during conflict and continue the dialogue in a calm way. In the example above, I do not have to respond to these posts from strangers and have decided not to. However, I see the responses to my post as an example of splits in this society, where what people see as “facts” varies based on what each wants to believe. When we cannot agree on what news is true and what is fake, it is hard to communicate effectively. It is like we are both standing on quicksand. Neither of us can get a foothold, when the ground is not solid. Agreed upon facts creates solid ground. Without that common belief in the same facts, what can we do? Even if we cannot get our heads around the same facts, we can sense the feeling behind the opinions. Everyone seeks safety and security. We do have that as common ground. People are sometimes afraid, worried and frustrated during this crisis. The more distress we feel, the less open-hearted we tend to be and the more critical we are of others. When you feel unfairly criticized, and you want to keep the dialogue going, look for something to agree with. This is at least one way to keep the door open.

Book available on website:

Communication Breakthrough: How Using Brain Science and Listening To Body Cues Can Transform Your Relationships


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