The biggest challenge we will face when the COVID-19 lockdown ends is not how quickly we can get back to the way we lived, worked and interacted with each other before it began. It’s going to be how we harness all the good we see in each other as a result of being thrown together.
The lockdown has, in many ways, brought out the very best in our society. As we stay home, we’re reaching out to support one another. We all simply want to do our part to get life back to normal.
Our collective focus has become clearer. For one thing, we’re beginning to recognize society’s true heroes. No longer are celebrities and sports stars at the top of the pyramid. Now it’s healthcare, grocery store, delivery and transit workers: those who continue to go to work so the rest of us can stay home. To keep them safe as best we can, we’re being a bit more patient while we stand in line (at least six feet apart, of course). We conscientiously say please and thank you. We might even share a smile as we give each other a wide berth on our daily walks — something unthinkable on the heads-down sidewalks of Toronto two months ago.
How are we going to keep this going? How do we harness our newfound cooperative spirit? The answer is to keep seeing the good. We need to prioritize looking for the positive impacts over the initial skepticism. We must find ways of ensuring that everyone wins, instead of getting caught up in competition. Sure, we will always challenge ideas and viewpoints, but we must balance it by recognizing the good and understanding the intent. It’s not about blind optimism. It’s about appreciating this collective desire to contribute, no matter how small that contribution may be.
In many ways, this has always been at the core of public relations: we work to ensure that our audiences appreciate the facts, issues and purpose of every communication. The way we conduct this work has changed in the past few weeks, as in-person meetings give way to web calls and online collaboration. But there is good in that as well. By the very nature of these tools, we are forced to listen to each other more carefully. And as business everywhere slows, we are able to ask more questions and give more thought before making our decisions.
So, if we are to make just one change permanent after all this passes, let’s make it a commitment to see the good around us.
Stay safe and physically distant until then.