How to Get the Spreaders to Start Practicing Social Distancing

Motivating people to change

Ontario just released the statistics on the number of deaths forecast from Covid-19. Quebec will follow in just a few days. People are wondering if this will ensure 100% compliance with social distancing over the next few months. The stats are grim, even if everyone were to comply, so you’d think that this would be enough to get the small group of hold-outs to finally join with the program. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

People don’t change out of fear

People change for two reasons: either for purely selfish motivations or for altruistic ones. Often, it comes from a combination of both. People change their behaviour when they see that it will benefit them directly; when they see that making a change will help others, or when changing what they do will help both themselves and other people.

With selfish people, appeal to their self-interest

If we make it clear to them that they could also make things worse for them by continuing to socialize because this would ultimately lengthen the course of the pandemic and make their financial situation even worse, they might then choose to comply with the pub health guidelines. They need to see a direct link, though, between their actions and the consequences they’ll experience.

There are four reasons why people aren’t engaging in social distancing right now:

1. They just don’t care. As I mentioned above, these are the antisocial people, the narcissists who lack empathy and compassion, and these individuals have no remorse for their selfish or hurtful behavior. These people will only respond to a public health initiative if they see that they’ll benefit directly by complying and that they’ll lose out, big time, if they don’t.

What you can do

If you know anyone who is still defying the social distancing rules, ask yourself which group you think they belong to. You can help your selfish friend or relative to see that they stand to gain a lot more from social distancing than from whatever fun they’re having right now by continuing to socialize. You can show them how they stand to lose a lot more in the long run by not changing their behaviour than the minor inconvenience right now of not being able to socialize.

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series