Communicating Calm & Control
The coronavirus has hit home.
My fair city of Fairfax, Virginia has its first reported case of the disease. And needless to say I am paying a little more attention than I was yesterday.
Now, I'm not panicking or making a run on sanitizer (not that there is any left) or other household supplies. But when your priest requests at Mass that you not touch each other during the Sign of Peace, then you start to also pay a little more attention.
So, what to do about it?
Well, you should certainly follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and do the things you should be doing - wash your hands thoroughly, stay home when you're sick, etc.
And there's one more thing you may not have thought of - communicate calm. Don't just stay calm, but communicate it.
By communicating calm, I am relying very much on my lovely wife and her teaching experience. I'm also relying on an approach to parenting called Celebrate Calm. The idea is simple: the calmer you are in a situation, the less likely you will make a mistake. In parenting, the mistake could be saying things that you don't mean to say or that the situation with a child escalates to the point of yelling and screaming.
This approach has really helped my wife and I with our three children. The calmer we are, the greater the chance that we resolve differences and communicate more clearly. Hence, I think the same lessons could be applied to how government officials, health care workers, the media, and average citizens communicate with one another about this disease.
Don't get me wrong, we should take coronavirus seriously and take precautions. At the same time though, the minute-by-minute news coverage as well as many posts on social media have put the coronavirus on par with the flu pandemic of 1918 as if we were in the middle of it. That's not the case - and I pray we won't ever be at that point.
Since we can't control the media narrative though, we have to focus on ourselves and how we respond to one another. At the center of communicating calm is being in control. And I would argue that by remaining calm, you are in control.
So, when you communicate and show that you are calm to others, they will - hopefully - feel that you are in control of your response and emotions. That will then, in turn, make them feel more confident and in control.
And as the coronavirus spreads, news coverage expands, and our lives are disrupted more and more, we need to maintain that calm so that we can be in control. Otherwise, the fear of the disease will overtake us and the anxieties we have will be as just infectious as the disease itself.