You’ve likely felt heightened tension in your life during the coronavirus pandemic, whether that be with family, friends, neighbors, your boss or even your partner, COVID conflict is everywhere. During this time, you might feel as if we should be appreciating one another more than fighting, but so much change and uncertainty has nearly everyone on edge.
Change of any kind creates stress in a person’s life. When that change happens suddenly and unexpectedly, it can be especially anxiety-provoking. The COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown changed every aspect of life overnight, leaving many of us yearning for our old lives while we mourned everything from visiting our favorite restaurant to hugging our elders.
In this post, we examine why there is so much interpersonal conflict during this pandemic, and how we’ve helped our clients at Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado overcome the tension around them during this time.
Sources of Conflict
There are endless sources of conflict right now, from arguments about masks to tension around family vacations. In fact, it might seem like the world is divided on every issue as we navigate the coronavirus outbreak. These tensions are primarily rooted in varying values and priorities. For example, your partner may value individual freedom while you value the health of the collective community. Therefore, your partner may feel that it is his or her right to attend an indoor spin class at your gym, where you feel it’s better to skip the gym to protect the collective community. Friction can more easily arise when value systems aren’t in alignment.
Another source is tension is the lack of healthy outlets during this time. Maybe you were a person who managed stress with a weekend getaway, a spa day, attending a yoga event, or meeting up with friends at a local winery. Options to let go of stress are more limited now with few activities available, and you may turn to arguing as a way to transmit your feelings to someone else when you are tired of feeling what you are feeling.
Similarly, if you find yourself arguing with your partner or family members more, the source of your conflict could simply be spending far more time together. When “Safer at Home” orders encourage you to primarily spend your time in the company of your immediate family, you may simply be craving some time alone, social experiences, or any new experience to take back to your family and share. Sometimes, that “COVID funk” comes out as frustration directed at your family when, in reality, it’s a factor out of your control.
Lastly, without firm data to help us understand the Pandemic, it’s easy to interpret the situation based on your own confirmation bias. For instance, if you want to believe that this disease is no more deadly than the flu, you can find a study to support that. Similarly, if you believe that COVID-19 has a death rate 10x higher than the flu, you could also find data to support that. The lack of accurate and consistent media coverage quickly fuels disagreements about the trajectory of this pandemic.
During this time, when life is more precious than ever, conflict isn’t what most people want. Whether it’s arguments with extended family who have different values, or tension with your partner due to spending all your time together, how do you de-escalate conflict and move beyond the arguing?
First off, recognize that trying to convince others of your perspective is a form of close-mindedness. By respecting, listening to, and evaluating all perspectives, you’ll grow as a person and learn something new about your loved ones. Resist the urge to try and convince others based on (politicized and inaccurate) data, and instead acknowledge their perspective, that it’s different than yours, and that you appreciate them sharing. Showing gratitude is a way to de-escalate and diffuse heightened emotions during this time. Honor others’ thoughts and feelings without feeling the need to adopt them as your own.
Sometimes, it’s best to take things “off the table” at family gatherings, and this pandemic might be one to add to that list. Just like politics, religion, and money, perhaps it’s time for your family to add “the pandemic” to the list of topics that are off-limits during your time together.
At Center for Shared Insight, we work with clients who are experiencing all kinds of conflict, from stress due to the Pandemic to friction related to parenting plans and custody orders, to anxiety related to a new job, home, or family member. Our team can help you understand the root of common conflict and identity ways to address and overcome it.