Over the last few weeks, public health and medical professionals I know have expressed concern over communicating about the coronavirus.
One public health professional put it bluntly: This is a communications nightmare.
There is much frustration. But there is more expertise, passion, and compassion.
I want to bring some support and reassurance to the HCP community, all of whom are dealing with COVID-19, often in multiple ways.
- I made the short video below. It’s for professionals and the public. It’s a brief reminder of some of what we know about how emotion comes into sense-making. (The transcript is below.)
- I put together a page of resources. These include my prior writings and podcast episodes that have bearing on communication and education when there is doubt, misconceptions, and different positionalities of those involved.
I hope these will provide some support and guidance while you communicate with patients, the public, colleagues, the media, and lawmakers. And I will continue to write and broadcast about COVID-19.
If there is a topic that you would appreciate my addressing, from a language, literacy and learning research basis, please contact me.
I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel from Health Communication Partners.
When it comes to the coronavirus and communication, there is no lack of frustration to go around on the part of the public and health professionals. So I’ve made this video to offer you some quick words of encouragement and support.
There’s a lot known about this virus but there are still some important questions that need answering and those answers are going to take time. People wanting answers and certainty makes sense. Waiting and uncertainty can be uncomfortable. That’s because there’s a kind of tension that comes with not knowing. People have different thresholds for how much uncertainty were willing to deal with. Different tolerances for not knowing.
Problems can come when our need to resolve or relieve the tension overwhelms other things. When our impatience or fear starts to drive the bus. This is problematic because when it comes to making sense of words and images our physical and emotional state matters. What we’re reading hearing and seeing can change its meaning for us depending on how we’re feeling.
You know this if you’ve ever, say, read something on your phone late at night. You were tired, you thought it meant one thing. The next morning you read it, you find out, no–it meant something else. The message didn’t change; your emotional and physical state did.
That’s part of why if people get a little tired waiting for answers that are going to take time to come and someone comes in and falsely claims to have an answer, it can be very appealing–regardless of how outrageous that answer might seem.
We want to resolve the tension of un-knowing.
So keep in mind that our emotional and physical state has an impact on the sense we make of what we see read or hear.
If you’d like more support and want to check out our podcast series, please come to HealthCommunicationPartners.com I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel.