4 phrases we shouldn’t be saying right now

The other day a friend sent me a video from The New York Times entitled “Health Care Kamikazes: How Spain’s Workers Are Battling Coronavirus Unprotected.”

The video was super well done — it’s The New York Times after all. But the title? Really? A team of editors and writers from one of the world’s finest institutions agreed “Kamikazes” was the best word to describe a group of people who are willingly putting themselves at risk to not only save lives but to make sure people do not die alone.

Everyone here in Spain has been seriously affected by this damn virus.

A close friend of my father-in-law passed away this week. My neighbor’s mother is in critical condition. A tear ran down his face when he told me how painful it is not to be able to visit her. The father of my wife’s best friend, one of the “Kamikaze” doctors, passed away this morning. Her brother and mother also have the virus.

As of today, over 15,000 medical workers in Spain have contracted COVID-19. Despite having a smaller population than China, Italy, and The United States, this is the highest number of confirmed cases in the world for hospital workers.

Put yourself in the shoes of the workers who have contracted the virus. Put yourself in the shoes of those who are still working every day. Put yourself in the shoes of their worried families and friends.

Surely there has to be a better word than “Kamikazes” to describe these people who are working around the clock with a serious lack of resources to care for our loved ones. A kinder word.

I don’t have a New York Times worthy vocabulary. But some examples that immediately come to mind are “courageous” “brave” or what people here in Spain prefer to call them — “heroes.”

Unfortunately, “Kamikazes” isn’t the only example I’ve been seeing that has left people steaming. Below are a few more phrases people going through an extremely challenging time don’t want to hear right now.

“This isn’t so bad”

Living in Spain, I have the unfortunate ability to see into the future. Just like how Italy was a few weeks before us, we are a few weeks further into the virus than other places.

That being said, just yesterday someone I know posted something about this whole social distancing thing not being that bad accompanied by a picture of them hanging out with their buddies. This is a college-educated person. Someone who has been clever enough to have built a million-dollar business. Yet still, they’ve made the decision to pick now of all times to try their hand at being a comedian.

Of course, we can make jokes. If there was ever a time for laughter, this would be it. I’m also glad people are doing well and this situation isn’t negatively affecting them. But before writing something please remember that the coronavirus is seriously affecting millions of other people.

Imagine you are an elderly person who lives alone. Imagine you woke up one morning and you didn’t feel well. Imagine you had to work in a hospital, supermarket, or pharmacy. Imagine you were a single parent. Imagine you lost your job.

You’d be terrified. Despite what we say, as people, we aren’t all that different. So stop saying this isn’t so bad. Instead, lead by asking people if there is anything you can do so this experience sucks a little less.

“I’ve saved a lot of money”

I’m going to lose it if I see this one more time. Good for you. I’m glad you have a stable job and not indulging in your high-ticket passions has allowed you to build a bigger bird nest. Or if you got lucky and happen to be doing a job that is all of a sudden in high-demand.

Not everyone, however, has been so fortunate. My neighbors both lost their jobs since going into lockdown and they have three kids and no savings. My mother-in-law’s friend, at the age of 64, is in danger of losing her apartment and she has nowhere to go. Some of my friends have already closed their business that has taken them a lifetime to build. Others, like so many people here in Spain, work in hospitality and have nothing coming in.

These people are obviously not alone and this problem is obviously not unique to Spain. The coronavirus will be felt both emotionally and financially all over the world for years to come. Now isn’t the time to flaunt the fact you’re having a great month or how much money you’re saving. It’s time to think about how you can care for the people in your community.

“This is just a flu”

A doctor friend of mine told me last night that he’s never seen anything like this before and he prays to God he’ll never see something like this again. Every single day doctors on the news mirror his message and plead with people to stay home in order to slow down the virus.

Despite this, and cases continuing to grow at an exponential rate, according to some this is still just a flu.

Would the world shut down for 60 to 90 days if this was just a flu?

This kind of thinking not only infuriates me, but it also scares the shit out of me. We’ve seen first-hand how fast this thing can spread and that it doesn’t play favorites.

If coronavirus has taught us anything it’s that we are all connected. Downplaying this as a flu puts people’s lives at risk.

While most of us are forced to sit still, the world outside is moving in fast-forward. Unfortunately, we can’t hit rewind and go back to how things used to be.

But there’s one glimmer of light available to all of us: we can hit pause and think before we speak.

This doesn’t mean that twenty-four hours a day we have to be a calming influence over every single person we come into contact with. But it does mean we can do our best to stop ourselves from saying things that can potentially add to the stress or worry of those around us.

This article first appeared on Medium.

Michael Thompson is a career coach who works with business professionals to open more doors and receive greater satisfaction from their work. His career and communication advice can be found in places like Business Insider and Fast Company. He writes to meet people so feel free to say ‘Hi’ here.

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