How to Have Healthy Conversations During Stressful Times
David Gutterman, PhD, shares tips for having healthy conversations and protecting your emotional health during these stressful times in this 2 Your Well-Being segment with WFMY News 2.
How do we handle conversations about election results with someone who hold different opinions than we do?
“This is one of the most divisive elections we've seen in our lifetime, and emotions are running extremely high. With the election and COVID and so many different things, I think one of the most important tips I would suggest is that as the results roll in, I would refrain from going public right away with your opinions and social media and all that - that's one of the first things that people turn to share what's going on with them. But I think that it's important to give yourself a 24-hour waiting period, whether you are delighting in the results or whether you have despair because of the results. I think it's important not to either gloat or despair publicly, because it's going to incite a lot of very intense feelings. Give yourself a waiting period.”
“Once you've entered into that realm and start, you know, posting your own thoughts or feelings or just reading others, you're going to be compelled to want to respond. And some of it might be relatively benign and not upsetting. I think for a lot of people, they're going to be very excited and will want to post something or be very upset. And it really is not toward any positive end. This is the time to step back, reflect a little bit on really what this all means, what it's about to you and hopefully to begin to repair some of the rhetoric that has been going back and forth that has been so divisive.”
How do we manage conversations about holiday celebrations considering things will be different this year due to COVID-19?
“One of the things I suggest is not to be in denial about this – we have to face this head on. Take all the precautions we've talked about, and you begin to plan for things rather than despair about the holidays and then feel surprised when they come upon us and we don't have a plan. Start planning now – I mean, Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. Start making your plans now for how you're going to do it safely and how you're going to maintain safe contact with family and friends, utilizing all the strategies you've been using all summer.”
How do we manage differences in opinion about COVID-19 safety?
“Masks and some of the [COVID-19 safety] precautions have become politicized. I implore everyone to please take to heart the recommendations that are being made. It's very frustrating to go into public wearing your mask, taking all the precautions and then someone walks in who's not adhering to the same standards."
"What I suggest is there are times when you have the ability to get away from that person and just and not confront. Unfortunately, there have been some very difficult situations, which a lot of us have seen on social media. But I think importantly, if you are in a public place or in a store, you can go to managers and ask them to maybe say something to a patron, but you don't want to get into to direct confrontations."
“You can, in fact, however, say to people and let them know that you're adhering to the guidelines, and you'd appreciate if they would as well. And you can do so in a way that doesn't make it personal, and is not necessarily judgmental, but really asking in a way that is respectful of the other person. But don't feel shy about protecting yourself, protecting your family and doing what's necessary.”
What should we do if a conversation becomes an argument?
“If you've said something and someone responds in a way that exceeds anything you would have expected from the comment you made - that is their voice gets really loud, or they snap back - first of all, keep in mind, everybody's nerves are a little bit on edge these days. So it doesn't take a whole lot to tip over that edge. But if someone responds in a way that far exceeds what you would expect for your comment, that's a pretty clear indication they've heard something different than what you meant to say, especially if you weren't trying to incite anger.”
“If someone escalates really quickly, don't just jump in. If you're feeling like they're biting your head-off to jump back at them, be defensive - in fact, step back and say, ‘Obviously, I touched a nerve - what did you hear me say? It's not what I meant to say,’ and clarify what the message was.”