As many of us start to figure out how to venture back into the world, we have to have conversations about safety and risk. These can feel awkward, whether you’re setting up a socially distanced lunch with friends or trying to plan a vacation with your family. There are terrific resources out there for what to cover in these conversations. I recommend this article: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_form_a_pandemic_pod
And I also recommend practicing how you want to approach having the dialogue itself. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a proponent of practice over winging it, and that’s most crucial when the conversation has high stakes—the outcome really matters.
It can feel easier to assume that everyone has the same standard of care about COVID, that we all make the same decisions about mask wearing and social distancing and what it means to minimize risk exposure. But of course that isn’t true. And avoiding the conversation isn’t practical.
In most conversations, there are two tracks running at the same time: the task and the relationship. If you are having a conversation with your best friend about how to merge your two families’ bubbles, you want to take care of your relationship with your friend and sort out the intricacies of the merging to keep everyone safe and prevent misunderstanding.
But you can approach these conversations with deliberate intention. A very helpful intention might be “to make her feel that we are on the same team,” or “to get his ideas about the plan.” Choosing a deliberate intention means we are subverting our default intentions, which in a case like this one might be “to defend my position,” to tell her she’s wrong,” or “to get what I need.”
Think specifically about your intention. Imagine how you want the person you care about to feel, and let that outcome determine how you approach the conversation. Remember that you are managing the relationship and trying to complete a task—leaning too far one way or the other can hurt feelings or leave important topics undiscussed.