The urge to lash lethal slingshots was happening again.
A guy without wearing a mask was standing a few feet away from me, standing in line in my local supermarket this week. “I have an allergy,” he announced to me. His words had a cruel tinge. He was poised for confrontation. He was glaring at me as if daring me to say something.
I was pissed, but I didn’t confront him.
Those who won’t wear masks put us all at risk. They walk beside their friend without wearing a mask. They shop in a crowded supermarket with nothing on their face despite the glaring sign at the front
But confrontation is not the answer.
I’m exhausted from confronting those who don’t follow COVID-19 guidelines.
I’m tired of my neighbor who knocks on my door without wearing a mask. I’m tired of watching some people walking without a face mask. I’m tired of watching customers inside supermarkets where at least one or more people shop as if they have not heard of the vicious pandemic.
Despite robust research showing us wearing a mask contributes to a large reduction in the risk of infection, some people still refuse to wear face masks. Or, they wear masks sometimes as if it is a makeup.
Now, wearing a mask is not even a choice. Face coverings are compulsory in indoor settings, but enforcement of the rules by individual businesses and institutions seems erratic. Some mega malls and supermarkets enforce their customers to wear masks. While others have stopped caring about wearing face masks.
Masks are also linked to less severe illness. Researchers have documented symptom less breakouts in venues such as cruise ships, where almost everyone was masked. This research shows when we wear a mask, the risk of infection is less severe. Even if we catch the novel virus, the number of viral particles will be less. That is the difference between our body suffering to get rid of too many deadly viruses inside our body and getting rid of a few viruses.
That’s the difference between death and survival.
Despite all these science-backed data, some people still refuse to wear masks. And the rest of us keep on wearing face masks even when we walk outside for 10 minutes. I’ve been wearing face masks since March 2020. I wear them even though they’re uncomfortable, sweaty, restrictive, and terrible for my skin.
The problem is…
Responsibility is rooted firmly with the individual.
This creates a complex interpersonal dynamics. Some people don’t wear masks, maybe because they do not have direct experience with the virus. Some may not have grasped the seriousness of the pandemic. Some may think they are immune to the virus.
We do not know why some people refuse to wear face masks.
I used to confront every individual who did not wear a face mask. Confronting made me feel like I was standing up to humanity, like I was doing my feelings justice. Like I had to make things right for everybody who did not wear masks.
Confronting did not change people’s minds.
I relinquished the battle of confrontation that took too much energy. It’s better to preserve energy to spend it where it can make a difference.
We’re more likely to be listened to if we soften our judgment.
To change someone’s mind, you’ve to be soft. That’s why shaming someone doesn’t work. Whomsoever you shame into wearing a mask will not want to wear masks. They will protect their beliefs with an iron fist. They will defend their reason until kingdom comes.
Attacking someone also doesn’t work. They’re less willing to listen and process the message. If I attack someone with a bare face, the reaction will probably be negative. I would waste my energy and be less effective.
We have a better chance of changing someone’s mind if we empathize. If we ask questions, instead of attacking a person who is not wearing a mask. If we listen instead of throwing lethal slingshots at that person.
Nobody ever changes his mind by insult.
For any person to change his mind, he has to feel validated. Confrontation does not validate. It attacks. Empathy, on the other hand, offers tremendous power to feel validated.
So the next time you want to confront someone without a face mask, change your tactics. Relax your shoulders. Maybe instead of getting angry at that person, ask why the person is not wearing a mask. The more kindly your tone is, the better.
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