There is a certain irony of how a mask requirement, intended to cover and protect, exposes differences and opportunities for more productive ways to communicate among families, employers, and neighbors.

Like most people, I so desire our society to be able to gather safely in groups and to hug others freely. As of this writing I’ve decided my part is wearing a mask, physically distancing, and washing my hands. So easy for me.

Being mostly a deliberate and honest communicator, I internally laugh at myself when I tell a white lie when I explain to maskless others why I wear a mask. I’ll say, ‘I am around others that are vulnerable.’ That’s only partially true. I do it because it is my small part to help us safely return to some social normalcy in as short amount of time as possible. Why don’t I just say that? The situation exposed a bit of my own hesitation to be totally honest.

When I calmly and clearly say, “I am doing what I believe is my part to get us safely back to some social normalcy,” I am telling the truth for me. I don’t need to apologize or defend myself.

As I see it there are three situations exposed by this mask requirement:
1. Divides already existing in relationships, both personal and business
2. Areas for personal development improvement
3. Feelings of disrespect whether real or imagined in a family/work/social culture

Fear is a survival mechanism to be acted upon quickly and relieved. If we live in continual fear, we are robbed of living and contributing fully. When we are unable to resolve the Coronavirus fear with those closest to us, more separation and stress occurs. This is true if you chose to be masked or mask-less the fears are just different.

A mask, from my perspective, is a simpler fear to address compared to fears of economic loss, illness, violence, etc. because it takes a simple consistent action.

Those relationships, personal and professional, that already have divides are likely to fall apart. I know many people who are just waiting until the virus passes to change jobs and several committed personal relationships ending.

Another way of looking at this is – the exposure of divides can also be an opportunity to sharpen our communication and create more positive connection.

While leaving a situation may be a reasonable solution, improving our communication, specifically communication in conflict skills, is a gift during these times.

Take for examples these scenarios:

  • The Adams family has a situation with two adults working from home and two college age children studying from home. The college age kids really want their social lives back.
  • Sam and Luke are a couple who are on the opposite side of the mask issue. Sam is committed; Luke believes it doesn’t matter.
  • Frank is made to go back to work in an office environment he doesn’t feel meets his needs for Coronavirus protection.
  • Kayleigh, a single mom, is working from home with a preschooler in the background. Her child’s father has visitation and isn’t as cautious as Kayleigh would prefer.

There are millions of people in these situations today. Each of these situations can create ongoing fear and resentment.

Most peoples’ knee jerk response to these divides follow Newton’s Law of Cause and Effect – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. To experience this, hold out a fist, and ask someone to push against it. Notice how you both push back. This is conflict.

Fear makes us react to protect ourselves when we feel pushed.

That reaction may be expressed out loud or held inside – it is resistance either way. This is force against force. This creates more resistance from the other person or people and rarely gets a good outcome for anyone long-term.

Here are some common ways this resistance is expressed:

  • We can’t have you exposing us. So, you adopt new behaviors or leave.
  • I am not going in there unless you…
  • You aren’t doing your part
  • Stay over there
  • Or, perhaps I orchestrate a big work around to protect myself without talking about it; breeding anxiety and resentment

When we react in this way it most often creates a situation where the other person
pushes against or digs in more deeply.
Not what we want.

What to do instead?

Mastering conflict as a pathway to freedom. The only thing we can control is our response to people, events, and things. Understanding the physics of conflict puts us in a place of power. Above I mentioned Newton’s Law – going force against force. This creates more resistance.

Now, I introduce the spiral. The contrast between pushing against and spiraling is the same difference between force and power. Introduce a spiral then you are working with true power that creates movement. I call this methodology Spiral Impact and it is grounded in the martial art, aikido.

If you want to effect change and feel freedom the following work consistently, Spiral Impact it by:

  • Getting centered. Be that calm in the eye of the storm. If you are communicating from fear people react back in defense. A centered state of being will give you confidence and presence that doesn’t provoke a reaction. How willing are you to practice breathing and meditation? Page  61 in Spiral Impact
  • Sharing your intention. I am choosing to do what I see as my part to mitigate this virus and keep us all safe in the process.  Own your part…avoid attacking the other person.  Page 85 in Spiral Impact
  • Asking questions, acknowledging or both instead of issuing orders. How will you join me in this process? How can we honor each other during this time of uncertainty? What are your concerns? I get this is difficult for you. Page 31 in Spiral Impact
  • Getting support as these are difficult times, who is your support? These can be friends, or professionals. Page 111 in Spiral Impact.

These may sound difficult to you. If ever there was a time to master conflict – that time is now! We’ve all been exposed!

Karen Valencic
copyright 2020