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The pandemic has changed so many things, but one of the most striking is language. Zoom meetings, zoom rooms, masked entry, social distancing, and much more. We adapt and after a while don’t even think about what we are saying.

Yet even though we have adjusted our words we can’t seem to adjust them to talk to each other. To share ideas. To disagree about things. Even sometimes to agree with each other. Why can’t we create a language that will let us get through this barrier? And that is what it feels like - a barrier. We start to talk to each other, realize we differ on something, and then we stop. It can be about a face mask or a politician or a policy. No matter. Conversation pauses, maybe there are some deep breaths, maybe an angry retort, and then often complete shutdown. If we are lucky that is. We may not find calming words, but we all seem able to find angry, vindictive, vicious, and, of course, foul words.

Maybe it is time to create a bridge with words. A zoom session with breakout rooms for us to settle a bit, think, and figure out how to talk to each other. Put on some makeup, set the lighting, dress up in some nice clothes (at least from the waist up) and get ready to talk. We already have words for the breakout rooms that can be placed in them: kindness, consideration, humility, and maybe even love.

I am no Pollyanna. I know this is not easy, especially because we all think (know?) that we are right, and the other person is wrong. They are stupid and we are smart. In fact, they are evil, and we are …. Good. With that capital G of course.

Sigh. How foolish, right?

Maybe we can agree to enter a zoom room in our heads when these times arise. Close our eyes, enter the password, wait to be allowed to enter, mute our voice and just allow the video. Look at each other for a few minutes, then unmute each other in turn and listen. Really listen before our turn to unmute.

Zoom sessions started out chaotically as everyone spoke over the other, but over time we got better. Took turns. Listened before responding and maybe even not responding. Just listened. Noticed how foolish we all looked through a zoom lens and (one hopes) were a bit humbled.

Silly perhaps, but we wear masks of all shapes and sizes and colors and elbow bump and walk down Plexiglas aisles in grocery stores. If we can adjust to all of these seemingly absurd changes, maybe we can adjust to “mind zooming”. Who knows, this pandemic that has upended our lives might just also teach us how to talk to each other again. Now wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

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