The best thing for most people across the world to be doing right now is limiting in-person interaction with others. But calling this social distancing is a mistake. If anything, what we so desperately require is the opposite, social solidarity.
COVID-19 has showed us just how connected we all are. The only way communities can slow and beat this virus is through coordinated action. People are depending on each other more than ever right now to keep their bodies healthy and also their minds. There is nothing socially distant about this. “Physical distancing” seems like a better option.
For starters, it is a much more accurate representation of what is called for. COVID-19 doesn’t spread through phone calls, video chats, letters, or thinking about how all of our actions impact one another. It spreads through droplets that are most likely to be shared when your body is within six feet of another body. Hence the need to stay physically apart.
In addition to this sort of physical distancing, what is really demanded right now is social solidarity, a constant reiteration of the fact that everything we do impacts others. We should leverage all the tools at our disposal to stay socially close, so that we can support each other during these uncertain and challenging times, even if we are physically apart. It’s not just the virus that is contagious but also emotions and attitudes.
What we need to be thinking, both as individuals and communities, is physical distancing, social solidarity.
Obviously this is a timely example, but the lesson is timeless and pertinent to all kinds of situations. Language shapes how we think, feel, and act. Whenever creating important statements, it is vital to step back and ask yourself what do you really want to say? How do you want people to think, feel, and act as a result? What is the goal?
It is important that we keep this in mind whether we are setting goals and values for ourselves, for larger organizations, or in the case of COVID-19, for entire nations. It is true that actions speak louder than words. But words play a significant part in driving those actions.