In late March, I wrote a piece entitled Social Distancing is Dumb that talked about the importance of interpersonal relationships during the pandemic. Over seven months later, I don’t know about you but I’m feeling more distant than ever from others. Additionally, I’ve never felt more conflicted. I’m finding it difficult to navigate the social world as my friends’ current response to the coronavirus is not uniform: some are operating as if they are in complete lockdown while others are acting as if nothing is happening. I know I am not the only one experiencing this challenge.
Who hasn’t heard some of these things lately?….
“I’m exercising an abundance of caution.”
“Would you like me to wear a mask?”
“We’re just sticking to a close knit group right now.”
“Sure, we’ll come over, but only outside.”
“Masks? I’m not wearing a mask.”
“No, you don’t need to wear a mask.”
It is a huge communication problem. So, I give you my Coronavirus Social Decision Matrix. Feel free to email copies to your friends and see where they fall within this grid. The “x-axis” is an individual’s level of COVID-19 concern/anxiety, while the “y-axis” is their need for social interaction. Place your dot and have your friends place theirs! Where are you on the matrix?
Below is a generalized statement for each quadrant that could indicate the feelings of anyone who places their dot in those respective areas. Do these statements accurately reflect the messages you’re sending to others or receiving from them?
So creating a Coronavirus Social Decision Matrix might sound silly to you, but human communication is hard enough on its own. Trying to navigate this pandemic socially is going to require a lot of communication. Consider this one more tool in your communication tool belt.
- Identify where you are in this matrix. Have you always been there, or have you come to be there over time?
- Share this matrix with those close to you and learn where they find themselves in it. Listen to their reasons and rationales for their position. (Listen to understand, not to respond/refute.)
- Any friends in the “red zone”? Think of ways to help them feel connected and put at least one into practice this week.**