Happy New Year. This year’s quick tips will focus on improving your presence in a hybrid environment beginning with how to make eye contact with one or one thousand.
Most of us here in the Tri-state area have never really been affected by tornadoes and hurricanes. At least not the kind that obliterate towns like folding dominoes and destroy life as we know it.
So, when we saw the pictures of devastating destruction that ravaged Kentucky and four other states this month, undoubtedly, we were sad for the thousands of people in its path. Yet, as the coverage fades and time moves on, we probably won’t think much about something so many miles away that doesn’t seem to affect us.
Every time there is a tornado or hurricane, I am transported back to August 1992. A reporter for 6ABC in Philadelphia at the time, I was sent to Homestead Florida to cover Hurricane Andrew, a category five storm that leveled over 63,000 homes and killed sixty-five people.
I recall interviewing a new mother who couldn’t breastfeed. She had run out of infant formula but couldn’t get to the store because there were no stores. Even if she could have made it to a Red Cross tent, the streets were piled high with twisted metal and dangerous debris that blanketed the ground where houses and businesses once stood.
When I went on the air that night to tell her story, I became teary eyed, caught up in the enormity of what happened. Back in Philadelphia, the phones wouldn’t stop ringing as hundreds of viewers continually called asking how they could help.
The images of first responders crawling through debris and over casualties is still haunting. Almost thirty years later, I still wonder what happened to that mother, her newborn and so many others I met. While I imagine they’ve rebuilt homes, churches and have found ways to move on, I’m certain the memories remain just as vivid for those who survived.
My father used to tell my brothers and me that we were lucky to live where we did. He said here in PA, we didn’t have extreme weather like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. My father is no longer alive to have witnessed the twisted metal that still lines streets in Upper Dublin township from the September tornadoes that tore through the region. The images of the Vine Street Expressway under fifteen feet of water and historic flooding throughout the city he grew up in would have left him speechless.
While significant weather events and temperature instability at this time of year are not unprecedented, our region still dodges more bullets than other areas of the country. However, it seems our local weathercasters repeatedly call temperatures “above normal” when mild temperatures hang on during the winter and summer nights aren’t as cool as they once were.
According to a senior spokesperson at the Prediction Storm Center in Norman Oklahoma “it is hard to attribute any one particular event to climate change.”
While climate change may not be solely to blame for more frequent weather events here in the northeast, it is hard to ignore it. The National Weather Service reports the decade from 2011-2020 was one of the hottest on record in the U.S. Regardless of the political divide and varying opinions on the importance of global warming, researchers at Yale University have reported that Americans continue to rank climate change as a critically important area of public concern.
While there are those who claim changing weather patterns are harmless, science continually tells us our planet is warming at an alarming rate and human activity is the principal cause.
Regardless of where you stand on whether climate change contributed to the recent storms, there are ways to answer the call for help in Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas like so many did when I covered Hurricane Andrew.
- Donate to help provide shelter, meals, supplies and assistance
- Give blood
If you are concerned about global warming and wondering what you can do moving forward without making sweeping expensive time consuming changes, Conservation International shares little behavior tweaks that can make a big difference.
- Use energy wisely. When a bulb blows or an appliance goes, replace it with an energy efficient product.
- Lower the heat and air conditioning when you’re away
- Carpooling, public transport, walking and bike riding reduce transportation emissions.
- Clean or replace your HVAC filters
- When available use natural light to save energy
- When shopping online, combine multiple orders into single shipments
- Switch to rechargeable batteries
- Put your computer to sleep when it’s not in use
- Use reusable coffee cups
As 2021 ends, there are so many divisive issues that Americans can’t agree on. Healthcare, immigration, climate change, vaccine and mask mandates, public education, gay marriage and more.
Perhaps when it comes to helping others however, we can find a way to agree that inaction is not an option.
The first thing she said when she called me was “you can’t tell anyone I told you this.” The secret was that a friend in our circle told her in confidence he is not vaccinated.
She was stunned and upset because he is a high-profile executive who spends several days a month traveling on planes to assorted locations where he interacts with many people. His wife, who is vaccinated, said he’s his own person and can make his own choices and didn’t seem to understand why it mattered if people around him were vaccinated.
In a recent Washington Post opinion piece Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting public health professor at George Washington University, and Sam Wang, a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, compared being unvaccinated in public to drunken driving.
The professors wrote. “Consider the analogy: three out of every eight people killed are not the intoxicated driver, but their passengers or people in other vehicles. Similarly, with COVID-19, the risk is borne not only by the person making the decision but also by others who cross their path.”
Given the great vaccine divide, you may not agree with the analogy and I’m not writing to suggest who is right and who is wrong. Rather, because this particular person told our friend he isn’t vaccinated, he put her in an awkward position.
In a few weeks, she’s having a party and he’s invited. She believes everyone else attending is vaccinated and asked me if I thought it was still okay to have him over. I told her that is her call. She asked me what I would do if it was my house and without hesitation I said, I would not have him at my house and here’s why.
If other vaccinated guests knew he was not vaccinated, they may choose not to come. Some are immuno-compromised and don’t develop immunity even when vaccinated. Others, like me, have elderly parents, some in long term care settings who are more vulnerable even when vaccinated. Her friend could be completely asymptomatic but positive which means he can transmit the disease to others. Medical experts say because vaccines are not 100% effective, not only would he pose a great risk to unvaccinated people, but he would be a potential threat to those who are vaccinated as well.
Here’s the awkward part. He told her not to tell anyone, even though she told me and made me promise not to reveal his identity. If she blabs, she betrays his confidence and risks their friendship. At the same time, if those attending her party knew that she knew and didn’t tell them so they could decide for themselves whether to attend, they would be furious. If he happened to be asymptomatic and someone got sick after being around him, they would blame her. They would likely see it as a betrayal and her friendships with these people could end as well.
This situation reminds me of when I was a journalist covering the news. When a predicament surfaced, we always asked two questions:
- When did you know about it?
- What did you do about it?
If a company knew something was amiss and didn’t act swiftly, public perception usually turned against them. I believe the same four principles of crisis communication apply to many personal situations.
- Take care of victims or perceived victims. In the news business, reporters focus on what went wrong. If you knowingly put people in harms way, you are portrayed as someone who cares more about yourself than others around you and your reputation is damaged.
- Fix the problem. People want to know as soon as you knew something might be wrong, you jumped on it. If you didn’t, the negative publicity is relentless, and you may find yourself with bigger problems than the original problem.
- Tell the truth. Stonewalling, spinning the facts and trying to keep secrets only makes things worse. Explain what you did and why you did it. You might suffer in the short term, but when handled deliberately and thoughtfully, people will respect you.
- Communicate immediately. As soon as you are aware of an issue, communicate immediately. If you’re not talking, rumors and innuendo fill the gap and you lose control of the message.
Back to my friend. She’s very torn between betraying a secret and not sharing that secret information which could negatively impact her other friends. She called again and asked me if it was me, would I betray my friend’s secret? I told her that’s not for me to answer, but I did tell her this.
Imagine a best and worst case scenario. If your unvaccinated friend found out you blabbed, what would you say to him? If your guests found out you didn’t tell them and allow them to make their own decisions, how would you explain your actions to them? If one or both parties stopped talking to you, how would you feel?
I suggested that she consider uninviting him and telling him why. That way, she can keep his secret. Finally, I told her if she doesn’t want to do that, she can always take the easy way out and cancel the party.