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Handling Conflict in Chaos

Mediation and Business Consulting by Kathleen Kauth.

The situation

As I write this, our country, and the world, is in the midst of dealing with the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak.  Starting in China, it has spread around the world fairly quickly.  The virus has a very high rate of transmission, with a long contagion period where there are no symptoms.  It affects the respiratory system, and is more dangerous for seniors and those dealing with underlying medical conditions.  Because it is so widespread without symptoms there is not a way to determine the actual mortality rate.  Figures of 2-3% mortality are based on the number of people actually tested and confirmed to have the disease.  Tests are being developed and deployed and will be administered to many more people.  The number infected will most likely go up significantly – which means the mortality rate is going to decline.  Most people will recover from the Wuhan Coronavirus.

The response

Our government is responding quickly, and efficiently as information comes in.  At the point of this writing, travel from other countries to the US has been suspended to slow the contagion.  Many states and cities have closed schools and cancelled large gatherings such as concerts, sporting and cultural events, and local festivals.  Nursing homes are no longer allowing visitors and domestic travel may soon be impacted.  Some areas of the country are experiencing panic buying of products (toilet paper of all things!) and the stress levels of many people are going up.  

Conflict in the chaos

Right now, we are adjusting to an entirely new set of parameters for our lives.  Virtually every person will have some aspect affected – work, school, entertainment, social etc.  This uncertainty, and the rapidity with which these events are unfolding, can create stress and conflict as we attempt to adjust.  There are a few steps we can take to lessen this conflict:


  1. Understand and acknowledge that just as you may be experiencing stress – other people will be as well.  Everyone is bringing their own personal issues with them as they face this situation.  Extend extra grace to people you deal with who may not be handling it well.
  2. Preparation – not panic!  Being prepared can help lessen your personal stress tremendously.  Take many smaller steps to prepare for self-quarantine if you haven't already.  Meaning, don't do a panic buy at the store.  Just add a few specifically focused items (such as cleaning supplies, medicine, pet food, additional frozen food etc.) to your shopping list and stock up gradually.  
  3. Reach out to help others.  Often, when your focus is only on your own issues, they become disproportionately greater.  Understand what your needs are and once you have secured them – reach out to others to offer whatever help you can.  Are there seniors in your area who shouldn't go to a store?  Offer to go for them.  Are you going to be home with your kids whose school has closed?  Offer to watch someone else's so they can get to work.  Use neighborhood apps to help take care of each other.  The spirit of community and giving is a significant balm to stress and conflict.
  4. Take care of yourself and your family.  Follow the CDC guidelines.  Wash your hands rigorously.  Keep your hands away from your face.  Clean your home more than usual.   Being proactive will make you feel more in control of the situation.  
  5. If you start feeling sick, self-quarantine and contact your doctor for further instructions.  Most likely – this is going to be a really rough flu to deal with, but most people will get well without intervention, and most who have intervention will get well.
  6. Talk to others.  Talking about it can lessen the fears and stress you are experiencing.  Stress and fear are the fuel conflict needs to survive.  Mitigate these, and you reduce conflicts. 
  7. Address conflicts as they arise.  Especially in times of stress, small issues take on outsize importance and can be very damaging.


Finally, take a deep breath.  This too shall pass.  


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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