Opinion | Yelling won’t make people wear face masks. But conversation might

As Covid-19 cases rise in my Northern Michigan community of Petoskey, so does the resentment toward Governor Whitmer’s executive order requiring face coverings within indoor public places and crowded outdoor spaces. As a nurse, I empathize with these feelings.

Jennifer Attie is a family nurse practitioner in Petoskey.

Nobody wants to be told what to do, especially when it comes to changing a behavior. However, to be clear, I fully support this executive order because I know that changing this behavior will save lives. So how do we assist individuals to accept that wearing a face covering is necessary without them feeling forced to implement this change?

Throughout my nursing career, I have worked alongside individuals in various settings to assist them with behavioral changes that could improve their health. I continuously rely on different theories that reflect best practice for behavioral change. Please note: these theories do not include shaming people or calling them out on their behaviors in public or on social media.  

Most of these approaches involve the person requiring or wanting to change a behavior to start by thinking about what that change might look like for them or for their family or someone they love. Why is it important to them?  How will it improve their life? How will they feel supported? Once they ponder and accept these answers, they are more willing to move toward implementing the desired change. Perhaps more importantly, once they have initiated the change on their own, sustaining the change will inevitably deliver the best outcome.

While a massive public health marketing campaign regarding this subject is ongoing, how do we, as every day citizens, help in a societal climate so divided on an issue that could save lives?

Perhaps everyone who has the ability should use their resources to normalize what it looks like and means to wear a face covering?

Communicate, collaborate and commit within your family, your business, your organization, and your political office. Discuss the importance of face coverings and how they affect you and those around you.

Have gentle and non-shaming conversations about the issue. Share the data and scientific recommendations. Highlight individuals in your circle who go above and beyond to keep your community safe (thank you homemade mask makers!). 

Show your community what it looks like for you to wear a face covering by role modeling this in public and share it throughout web sites, local newspapers, social media and newsletters.

Celebrate people who embrace this opportunity and commit to wearing a face covering. Maybe these actions, taken by all of us, but especially our elected officials, could help eliminate the partisanship division occurring around face coverings.

I am grateful to the individuals, businesses, organizations and politicians in Northern Michigan who are already doing their part to normalize face coverings. I see you. 

However, it is not lost on me that we can collectively do more to empower individuals to embrace facial coverings as a necessary behavioral change. We are all greater than the sum of our parts. 

Instead of feeling resentful, let’s work on feeling safe and connected to the people in our community. Change is much more of a process than a one-time event, so it requires continuous work to help people see how masking up can benefit them personally in addition to the community in which they live, work and visit. 

In doing so, perhaps our amazing community and state could rely on each other instead of an executive order to keep our communities as safe as possible through this pandemic.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 07/17/2020 - 5:02am

"So how do we assist individuals to accept that wearing a face covering is necessary without them feeling forced to implement this change?"

Ms. Attie, attempting to frame a lecture as a "conversation" is really disingenuous.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7181938/

https://www.rcreader.com/commentary/masks-dont-work-covid-a-review-of-sc...

These authors don't agree with your solution. Since medicine is supposed to be based upon science, care to share why that is?

John Chastain
Mon, 07/20/2020 - 8:53pm

Kevin I often wonder if you bother to read the articles you link to or are just linking them in an attempt to make your opinions look authoritative. Regardless the first two don’t agree or disagree with the thrust of Ms. Attie’s opinion piece on how to discuss wearing a mask during a respiratory pandemic. The third is the usual conservative “opinion” or as I like to think “propaganda” link that define your attempts at intellectual legitimacy. Still one must consider this approach to be an improvement over a recent rant of yours about masks, “snowflakes” and liberal cowards that probably wouldn’t pass Bridges updated civility standards. So good on you mate, perhaps you might try reading the linked articles with an open mind and the level of discourse will improve to the point of being rational rather than reactionary.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 07/24/2020 - 8:47pm

Mr. Chastain, of course I've read them. Why else would I include them if they were not even relevant to the entire premise?

I can't speak for where you've been this week, but I can tell you that the one thing which certainly caught my attention in my travels across Michigan is how similar the above piece is, to what I've seen being reported across other outlets across Michigan. And these are just the ones that I'm aware of. Note that their network affiliations are polar opposites from an editorial standpoint, which adds a little more mystery into the mix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgsFxluNHRc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0yeseronlE

Was the efficacy of masks even mentioned?

Nope.

They all just went into this being "settled science", and proceeded from there. Just like what was written in the opinion piece above.

Promoting unquestioned obedience is significantly easier to accomplish when you don't bother to acknowledge a glaring problem with your underlying premise.

middle of the mit
Sat, 07/25/2020 - 6:47pm

The standards for commenting don't apply to conservatives......any where.

They can post all sorts of "dubious claims" all over this site.

They can say that masks don't work, but I would challenge them with common sense.

We have all seen our breath in the winter, haven't we? You live in Michigan.......be honest!

You can't see it today or for the next 4 months or so...........

If you see your breath in the cold..........it doesn't mean it stops when it gets warm out, ya know.

Also.....since when did the common cold or flu have a spike in the heat of summer?

Sue in east Lansing
Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:26am

Last night a car with young men pulled next to my son on the MSU campus and berated my my son for wearing a mask. Yelling won't stop people from wearing masks either ...