An interesting tweet caught our attention:
“If we view ourselves as besieged victims who need to go into hiding, then we will cultivate fear and hoarding. If we view ourselves as a community working hard to protect the most vulnerable among us, then we will cultivate courage and helping. Mindset matters.”
This perspective strikes us as accurate and helpful, and right in line with the most basic premises of effective public interest communication: Complex situations can always be understood in more than one way, with very different consequences. Making progress depends on identifying the perspectives with the most positive consequences.
When it comes to COVID, but also many other topics – from climate change to the economy to sustainable agriculture, etc. – it is easy for us to see problems as daunting or overwhelming, as though we are at the mercy of events way beyond our power to make a difference. Fear causes us to turn inward; cynicism causes us to shut down.
But other perspectives help us recognize that we are active participants, making the world better through our choices and actions. We feel strong and uplifted when we recognize how our actions matter.
For most of us, our most effective activity to slow COVID is to stay home, and that doesn’t feel much like “taking action.” In fact, it feels like passivity, unless we are reminded that this is a decisive, winning strategy because our actions have consequences for everyone around us, for better or worse. “We are all in this together” – not just in an abstract or moral sense, but in practical, meaningful ways. In COVID, we support each other by staying apart.
Communicators encourage empowering perspectives on a range of issues by:
- Focusing on practical, understandable solutions more than problems and threats,
- Connecting the dots so people understand a complex topic and how the solution solves the problem, and
- Providing clear choices they should be supporting by voting, by speaking up, and by making their priorities known.