In our quest to find the truth, we also have to recognize that our brain purchases truth away from us by saying things that are not aligned with the truth but are in alignment with the stability and the certainty that a belief provides. This is very much evident in the rip-roaring dialogue about wearing masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On today’s show, Bill Stierle and Tom tackle the controversy and the difficulties around mask-wearing and society’s tension going on around this. Is mask-wearing impeding on people’s need for freedom and choice, or is it appropriate? If you’re still divided on this issue, you might want to listen to this discussion.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Truth And Mask Wearing: The Need For Safety Versus The Need For Freedom And Choice
Bill, I’m excited to talk about this subject because it is a subject that every American can relate to. I also want to preface this by saying this is not a political topic. There’s a tendency that Americans try and turn this into something political, but it’s not a political topic. What we’re talking about is the controversy and the difficulties around mask-wearing and having safe discourse or safe discussion about wearing masks. We see a lot of tension and conflict in our communities around whether it’s a state mandate to wear masks or maybe it’s not a state mandate. It could be or a local city ordinance in some cases or it might just be a retail establishment. There’s a lot of tension and conflict going on around this, and it’s troubling.
One of the biggest challenges is if somebody believes something, they can justify something. Unless there is a unified message, the human being will find a crack inside their consciousness to justify their choices. The choice being one of the most powerful needs that drive human beings is that you got to be able to maintain choice and be able to have some flexibility with the choice to know that you’ve might pick another need ahead of the need for choice from time to time if the situation warrants it. It’s like, “Do I let my kid go and cross the road, not look both ways and into traffic?” I’m picking the need for safety over the need for freedom and choice. That’s a good pick because I don’t want a little kid going across the street and not looking or not having the skill or awareness about cars. People are not going to argue with that because they’ll say, “He’s a kid and he does not know any better.” The same thing applies to masks. Don’t you know better? “Yes, but I’m an adult and I get to choose what I want. It’s America and it’s a free thing.” That’s the hard part.
There are many things we could use as parallels to this. There’s a similar issue which becomes a political hot potato to most people even though it may not be. It is the idea of retail establishments having a policy where they don’t allow people to enter their store if they are carrying a gun with them. That becomes the same argument against freedom, choice and all that. Retail stores have taken a position that, “You have a right to have a gun, but this is our retail establishment. If you want to shop here, please leave your gun at home, in your car or whatever.” We see other things like that and there’s been an attempt to politicize mask-wearing in some ways too. Thank goodness the president finally was wearing a mask out on a public visit to a hospital. That was very important because a lot of people were saying, “The president doesn’t wear a mask. Why do I need to wear one?” Now, he’s at least showing that wearing a mask is appropriate certainly in certain situations. Hopefully, that takes some of the political wind out of the sails of the political argument.
The thing that I’m unsettled about is that the people around him are not smart enough to get him to wear a mask. He could have been wearing a mask from the very beginning if I was there or other smart people were there around him. It would have been easy to get him to wear masks.
Let’s hear how would it be easy because I don’t think his staff finds it easy to get him to do much of anything.
They can’t get him to do anything because they keep approaching him straight as they’re trying to convince him into doing something. He’s an “I get to do what I want, I’m the king of the world” guy. That’s what he does. If you make it to his benefit, I would have mocked up somewhere about 8 or 10 different masks that were Donald Trump’s branded masks and logos, and he would have been wearing masks in February. I’m going to mock him up and brought him in there and said, “Mr. President, here’s what we got. This is what we’re going to do and our profit is going to look like this. It’s a good opportunity for us to get the brand out and make America great again. This is what we’re looking to do to take advantage of this situation.”
Turn the mask into a slogan or a billboard for his re-election campaign. That’s pretty brilliant.
That’s what happens when you know what the needs are. If you know that the person’s motive is the need for respect, recognition and acknowledgement for the things he’s doing in the world, you put the thing in front of the thing. You put the need into the tasks that you’re trying to get them to do. It’s like, “This is your primary need, respect, recognition and acknowledgement for America. We’ve got to test this. Let’s test which one of these masks is going to work best. You could be both known as safety and as the person that’s ahead of the game.” It’s a lure and he’ll follow the lure. When a person doesn’t know what the need is, what they’re doing is you’re trying to convince a person into the logic or the rationale of wearing a mask instead of that’s not where they’re living. They’re not going for evidence. They need to go for a different need. The need for truth is not as valuable as the connection through controversy. A big part of Donald Trump’s construct is that, “I get connections through conflict. I don’t get connections when I’m peaceful, if I’m helpful or if I’m a good guy. I fire people. You’re fired.” The need for protection and safety is not what you need to sell because he doesn’t know how to sell safety.
You could sell him on marketing and branding. In the federal government, there is a law about not being able to actively campaign from the White House or things like that but in a passive way, he probably would have gotten away with it or still could get away with it. If masks had campaign messages, “I’m not campaigning. I’m just wearing my mask.” You’d have every person who is an unapologetic and passionate Donald Trump’s supporter wearing masks if you sold and distributed those kinds of masks. You might have solved Coronavirus there in a heartbeat.
Before the governor shut things down, a friend invited me for an outdoor walk down in your neck of woods, in Orange County. We were out walking around this bay and everything. There was a row of shops and people were eating in the outside areas and stuff. I was a little surprised and shocked that there were only maybe 1/3 or 1/4 of the people that had masks or were wearing masks. I was thinking to myself, the need for freedom, the need for choice and the belief is, “It’s not here. I’m not going to catch it.” It has been a big part of the struggle that we have faced when you’ve got a counter-narrative going on, “I don’t like to wear it because it doesn’t make me look good. I am not going to wear this thing because it represents something that I don’t believe and the president doesn’t believe. I don’t want to face this. I’m going to go with my freedom, my choices, my independence, my Liberty and my individuality.” Meanwhile, they’re not putting the need for safety, health or the need that should be sold mostly is the consideration for others. Let’s go back to our store example. I’m the store owner and somebody comes to my store and doesn’t have a mask. What’s the first thing I say? The first I say is different than what I know they will say, “Sir, I’m sorry, you can’t come into this store. You don’t have a mask on.”
They’ll be confronted with the rule, the requirement and the policy.
I would approach it with a few different sentences because this is a communication show. We tend to work or mock-up language. We want to get a feeling word and a need word to go next to each other. The easiest way to get somebody to listen is you put their feeling and their need in front of their face right away, “Sir, are you feeling confident and you want the choice to come into the store without wearing a mask? Is that what you’re thinking?” “Yes.” The person is in agreement with it. Depending on the yes, you’ll see what they do next. Some people reach in their pocket to put the mask on because they have it.
Maybe they don’t want to have the discussion or argument.
That’s the first point of choice. Let’s supposed the person is more, “I’m going to fight for my need for freedom. This is tyranny and this is communism.”
Maybe they are going to say, “I’m not wearing a mask. I have every right to shop here.” They’re a little more aggressive.
“Sir, you’re irritated and you want a choice to shop where you want. You want the choice and freedom to do whatever you like. Is that correct?” “Yes.” The person without the mask doesn’t know that they’re running over the choices of the store owner right now. They’re thinking their needs met ahead of their needs. They’re not even thinking that. They are just going, “I want what I want.”
“I don’t want to be bothered.”
All of a sudden, I got a choice. My next best choice is, “I feel torn, sir. A part of me would like you to come in to shop here at my store. Another part of me has to protect the other business coming in and out of my shop. If you’re in here without a mask on, then my need for health and safety aren’t met here as well as my other patrons.”
Now he doesn’t know what to do. He’s probably starting to feel a little guilty.
He’s got a feeling coming up. There are two different things. If his needs are larger, then he’ll walk out. If his need for independence is freedom, you just lost a customer forever. It’s like, “Thank you. If you’re not interested in meeting my need for safety, I’m not sure if I want you as a customer.”
That last statement you made is something that more store owners or managers might think. A lot of times, it’s a very low-level employee. Think about it like a Starbucks shop or something. They are not invested in maintaining you as a customer for years to come. They’re there working a job at a pretty low hourly rate because they need the money and they’re being required to have this discussion with you. They are maybe annoyed that they have to deal with this.
They’re going to feel annoyed, frustrated or even scared because they don’t want the confrontation. Quoting a rule out of a belief does not work.
It’s the same thing that we always say that fact-checking doesn’t work.
It doesn’t have any traction because the person is sitting with their belief and rejecting the fact, “I have a belief and here’s what the math is. The virus is this big and the hole is this big.” Meanwhile, what they’re not even looking at is the mask is designed as a reversed pressurized thing. It’s not just the size. It’s the design and the size working together. It’s like human beings have some smartness to them especially these pesky people called scientists. They have to test things and have a hypothesis, and then prove or disprove it. I’m going to be that low-level employee that you mentioned. Let me give you an example of a communication training I would provide them.People can do what they need to do to protect each other and be considerate of each other. Click To Tweet
That would be very helpful. Let’s do that.
I’m ready to make my cup of coffee and all of a sudden, someone is coming in the cashier and they do not have their mask on. “Sir, I’m noticing that you’re not wearing a mask. Is this something you’re choosing to do or is this something that you had forgotten to put on?” I’m giving the patron of the benefit of the doubt.
You’re also presenting them with the ability to make a choice and decide for themselves to do something rather than have it forced upon them.
I’m getting them in the game of choice. Here’s where people make a huge mistake about the need for choice. With parents, it’s not providing the kid’s choice, “Do you want this ice cream or this ice cream?” That is not a healthy practice of choice. That healthy practice of choice is that, “Here is this need of yours and here’s this need of mine. I want us to figure out how we can get both of those needs met.” The easy one is, “Is it vanilla or is it chocolate ice cream?” The difficult one is, how do you do choice and consideration for the other patrons in this store?
The second line is the guest says, “I forgot it and I just wanted to come in here and get a cup of coffee really quick.” “You had forgotten and you want to get a cup of coffee really quick. Here’s a mask from behind the desk.” I would give the employees the ability to access and hand somebody something right away. Attach that mask with a powerful need, “We’re interested in meeting the need for consideration and safety for you and the customers.” Now we’re not talking about freedom. We’re talking about safety and consideration for others, “Here at X coffee shop, we would like both our customers and guests at our stores to be safe. Here’s your mask.”
You want to give that employee an emotionally safe way to say, “This is the standard. This is what we live by here at this place of business. Safety, protection, consideration for others is what we’re doing here.” We’re going to make it emotionally safe for our frontline worker to face somebody like this. If they walk out, they walk out and then say, “You live to the standard. You live to what you were trained to do. You were trained to empathize with them. You were trained to hand them a mask. You were trained to tell them that this is associated with safety, protection and consideration.” That’s what this item is for.
That makes a lot of sense, safety, protection and consideration. If somebody continues to argue that they should be allowed to have the freedom to shop without the burden of a mask, they are walking down this plank of being inconsiderate, selfish and also putting others’ safety in jeopardy.
Give me that one back. Pretend you’re a doctor. You’re somebody that has studied medicine or something and you have a belief. Give me the pushback. You’re standing in the coffee shop line and this barista is doing the mask thing. Give me that work lecture and watch what the barista could say.
“I’m a doctor and there’s no evidence that masks are doing anything to stop the virus. Not only that, but it’s also harming myself breathing my own carbon dioxide back. It’s causing more harm than it’s helping.”
“You would like me to hear that you’re a doctor and you’d like me to respect your wishes. You don’t believe masks that well. You have a need for health and health is preventing you from wearing a mask. Did I hear all that correct?”
“I feel torn. I’m not a scientist at all. I’m trying to meet the need for safety and consideration for people here. I don’t have time to study or research the things that you have. If you’d be willing to stand outside and I’ll have my manager come out and talk to you about it. If you’d like, I can bring you the coffee you would like and I’ll come out and get your order. Would that work better for you?”
I would think that would definitely dis-arm me to a large degree. If I’m aggressive, I might continue to argue the point, but I also can clearly see that even if I argue it, I’m not going to move you.
You’re not going to move me and also I fell on the sword early. “I’m not a doctor, I’ll come out to you,” is like, “I’ll serve you but not in here.” My judgmental mind is starting to go like, “I’m not doing the scientific research while I’m serving you coffee. I’m not debating it here in this space.”
I know a doctor who feels this way. That doctor had to fly on a plane and knew that the airline was requiring masks. This doctor got a mask that’s technically a mask that you strap on your head, but then it was like a fishnet. It was open and porous. It’s not stopping a droplet at all from going anywhere but it’s technically a mask. This person was finding a way to try to be in compliance with the rule but meet their need for breathing freely.
You’re going to hear that. There are a couple of stories running out there. This person got COVID through a COVID party get together or something, where they were doing a COVID cookout. One of his last breath was, “I thought it was a hoax. I guess I’m wrong.” He’d passed and died.
This is true. This is out of Atlanta. There was a 30-year-old who died of COVID-19 in the hospital. There’s truth to back this up. The nurse was interviewed in the media. They had a COVID party mocking the seriousness of the virus and feeling they were young, robust and not going to be affected by it much at all. They thought it was a hoax and learned the very hard way with their life. This person died. One of their last statements was, “I thought it was a hoax, clearly it’s not” type of thing. It’s sad that this is going on.
Wearing a mask has been politicized. I’ve read lots of stories and we’ve seen a video of people in stores saying, “This is America and forcing me to wear a mask is a tyranny.” That’s one of the things the people are saying. There are many examples that can easily diffuse that. It’s really not tyranny. It’s similar to the fact that not only states and local communities, but individual establishments have established rules for years that there’s no smoking inside a store. They’re not allowed to do that, but that doesn’t take away your freedoms. It’s not tyrannical to require that you don’t smoke in a store. We have seen disgruntled smokers very unhappy they’re not allowed to smoke in a restaurant while they’re eating and have similar types of arguments. I don’t think in general, the public thinks that no smoking requirements or no smoking on an airplane that that is a law. That’s a federal law that you can’t smoke on an airplane or tamper with the restroom smoke detector on a plane, which they state every time in their preflight announcement.We can all learn more about how to communicate better. Click To Tweet
People still do it and people still get, “I just seen a cigarette.” They’ve worked themselves into the addiction. The addiction piece takes over and they do whatever it takes. They’ve got to be told, warned and being smart about it.
It’s commonly understood in America that law that says there’s no smoking on an airplane is not infringing on your freedom or your liberty as an American citizen. The mask-wearing is analogous to that.
Politicizing is when the person is picking a need of an identity and the need for loyalty to that identity over the needs of the greater identity of America. It’s like America is made up of a series of needs. In the constitution, here’s what these needs of freedom look like. Why is it there? So that there’s not a king or nobles that are taking all the money and everybody is working as a serf. That’s why people left Europe because there were one person and all of these other X numbers of people that had all the wealth and the rest of the people didn’t. They left for this new country to do that. Even though it started as colonies, that’s what was taking place at the beginning of America.
It’s strange that we’re at that same spot and people were saying, “You’re not being loyal to the King.” “Who’s the King? Do you mean Donald Trump?” “No, to the party.” “You’re hiding behind the identity of a party. You would like all Republicans to believe the way you do.” “Not exactly.” It’s just I think it’s stupid. You believe that the need for freedom is more important than the need for safety. It’s another need like the next one. You’re living towards that value but it’s not necessarily in alignment with we the people. Let’s start with there’s a ‘we’ part of this in here. It’s not you, the individual. It starts with we, the people. There’s a we thing here. There’s not an I thing here. It’s hard to get people into that awareness and consciousness around things.
Emotions run hot. People have fear because there’s a lot of uncertainty going on. California started to lock back down. They closed hair salons and nail salons again. Indoor eating in restaurants is closed again. There’s a lot of fear around the economy. The interesting thing about what we’re talking about mask-wearing, if everybody diligently wore or if everybody committed to wearing masks, I know they say 6 feet from each other but let’s take it a little broader. Let’s say whenever you’re coming within 10 feet of anybody else, if you would wear a mask, we could all go about our business. Maybe not eating in a restaurant as much because you have to take the mask off to eat. I understand there’s that difficulty.
June 1st or 2nd in California is when they opened up hair salons the first time. My hair by that point had been growing for three months. I felt like this was a throwback to the ‘70s or ‘80s and it wasn’t even that long. I made an appointment and I went out to the hair salon first thing on June 2nd. I had the very first appointment that my stylist was able to serve me. I was impressed at what a serious effort this salon had put in to making sure there’s plexiglass between every station very seriously to prevent water droplets from spreading left to right. Everybody had masks on as required. The processes and procedures they went through. This was at that point one of the safest environments for people to be next to each other. Despite all that effort and I’m sure not all salons are doing the same level of protection, but I was so impressed for all the effort that salon went into.
As we’re recording this, salons are shut down and my stylist is again out of work. That’s a very real situation and scary in terms of our economy. I understand the fear people have for locking things down again. We can’t completely trash our economy as we already did to a large extent. We can’t keep doing this and survive economically. I would think if people have that need, which hopefully we all do, we all want economic prosperity and financial safety, security or at least opportunity, mask-wearing is one path towards that.
The need for freedom and there’s privacy piece that’s going on, they had the opportunity to do contact tracing in the past. That opportunity is very difficult right now because the numbers are very big and it would be a whole layer of expense to add on top of the thing. It would be hard to get ahold of it.
My understanding is it’s not only the volume of people that are ill now with the virus so large, but my understanding also is the testing infrastructure is not able to keep up with, and the results are coming back a week later or more. By the time you’ve confirmed a week later, you are positive for Coronavirus, the contact tracing effort would not be helpful because all the people you were in contact with have now been contacted with many others. It’s very hard if you could get tested more quickly and you have had enough contact tracers. New York did contract tracing. My mother who’s retired became a contact tracer in New York to keep busy for something to do. They were paying a significant hourly rate to contact tracers in New York. My understanding is New York is much better off than many states. The Northeast Corridor there through New England is one of the areas that is no longer a hot spot.
They’ve flattened the curve. There’s one place on the Worldometer that you can hit and you can see what states have flattened the curve and what states have not. That’s interesting because that goes to show you that people count and people can do what they need to do in order to protect each other and be considerate of each other. That’s the thing. I’ve known three people that have had the disease and came back from it. They said that it’s not something you want to get, then the three people that have passed by it. That’s tough and everybody is going to have their story eventually, the same thing with the AIDS crisis. It wasn’t until you knew somebody that knew somebody, you’re going like, “This is serious.”
Maybe we should mention briefly that you’ve already had someone you’ve known who died of the Coronavirus, your uncle. We mentioned that many times, but you and I know another person that died from Coronavirus. His name is Berny Dohrmann and he touched many people’s lives. There are many thousands of people who previously could not say they knew someone that had COVID-19 or that died of COVID-19 that now do because this person led a community of business people and knew many people. There are a ton of us who have had the sobering slap across our faces that Berny got it from his son who was working outside the house. He got infected and brought it home, infected the entire family and the father died rather suddenly. It was so sad.
It’s a quick thing. One of my assistant’s dad died. It was like on Sunday he got a little bit of cold and died on Thursday. There are pre-existing conditions that go with the disease. If your immune system is not in great shape, this thing takes you out. The article that I read from the different autopsies that they’ve done, the extensive amount of blood clotting that takes place in various organs has been something that they’ve mentioned they’ve never seen anything like that.
I read that same article. It’s a pathology study. These are coroners who are examining what the effects are on the body from COVID death patients. The blood clotting in all these organs like your kidneys, livers, lungs and all these things is something that they’ve found very notable. It’s these types of things that we haven’t learned everything about this virus. That’s why we have a long road to go here. Because the subject of mask-wearing is our focus, I want to go back to what you were saying about how the president’s staff or team could have gotten him to wear masks.
I wonder if something similar could have applied for the youth of America because in Memorial Day weekend and July 4th, we saw especially twenty-somethings at the beaches in Florida and California ignoring social distancing. There were even at lakes in Midwestern states, in Michigan on a lake, I saw on July 4th this huge group of people, especially younger people. They’re unconcerned. I’ve seen interviews of people in Miami-Dade County of twenty-somethings, “I’m not worried about the Coronavirus. I’m young. It’s not affecting young people,” and they’re not wearing masks. You could have done something similar to create masks that have emojis on them, that are fun, that have slogans on them. Talk about a business opportunity for somebody else. It’s almost like t-shirt printing. You could create masks with all of these funny expressions or all these different messages that people would be proud to wear or certainly more willing to wear, and motivated people to do it. No one has thought about that.
It’s been difficult. Initially, it was not having enough masks. It’s unsettling because the right order of preferences was not put together. “Here’s what consideration for all of us is. Here’s what safety and protection are for all of us. This is what it’s going to take to get safety and protection.” Because the federal government was not proactive, we didn’t do the best to keep the disease out of the country. We didn’t do anything to do that. Whereas Ebola, we kept mostly a lot out of our country or otherwise we would be having this same discussion with Ebola, “Who died from Ebola? Who did you know? Whose uncle, friends or mentor?” It’s very much difficult to keep it out.
It was very hard and it takes money and effort to keep it out. We didn’t spend the money or the effort to do that. We’re facing it as an internal battle. To be known as an American that can’t travel because I’m from America totally affects the need for respect and trust for us as a country. That particular casualty is you can’t say, “I don’t travel and I don’t care.” Your avocado travels. All your food from all these different countries travel. You know most of the things in the store are made from another country. There are not a lot of things that are made in America because of the standard of living and the amount of money it takes to the labor costs here. It’s unsettling.
I have an actual consumer product that I’ve been developing and its release is delayed because I can’t go to China to deal with it. I need to but it’s too risky to bring it in without going there and confirming things before it ships. It’s on indefinite hold. To pivot, I know I said at the beginning of the show that this wasn’t a political issue and I truly believe that mask-wearing is not. However, now I’m turning a little political. You were brilliant in how the marketing and branding president could and should use the mask to his advantage, and be campaigning everywhere he goes even if it’s not a campaign visit. By the same token, there’s something similar to something we’ve talked about.
The Democrats can pivot it to, “Make America Safe Again.” It would be over.
Not only that, Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, has been wearing a mask from the beginning out in public whenever he went out. He’s been the example of, “You go out in public, you need to wear a mask.” We talked about when Donald Trump was in impeachment how we could have created the hat that said, “You’re fired.” On the mask, he could have a 45 with a red circle and a slash through it, which is representing Donald Trump as the 45th president, and then, “You’re fired,” stealing his line from The Apprentice, put that on a mask or still put that on a hat. Honestly, the Democrats are such bad marketers. They should have been doing this for months. Wouldn’t that be incredible? Turn a mask into advocacy for what you would like to see change in the country or remain the same. You’d get everybody wearing masks, and not only that, you’d help meet everybody’s need for safety at the same time.We all want economic prosperity and financial security; mask-wearing is one path toward that. Click To Tweet
Next time around, we need to take a look at the obstacles that beliefs put into place for us as human beings and our quest to find the truth. We also got to recognize that our brain purchases truth away from us. It purchases truth by saying things that are not in alignment with the truth but are in alignment with the stability and the certainty that a belief provides. A belief lands in a place that calms us down because I don’t have to think about this again because this is what I believe. I’ve processed it. I looked it at right and left. I don’t have to rethink it, which is a great deal of certainty, but it doesn’t mean it’s right.
Certainty makes a lot of people calm.
If I have certainty about my world and this is one of the things that Donald Trump has been very good at. It’s being able to appeal to certainty that he has been able to somehow collapse that, “Because I’m wealthy, I know things.” That belief for the people that are not wealthy has got to realize at this point that just because you’re wealthy, doesn’t mean you know anything. That does not meet the need for truth. Because you are wealthy, wherever your wealth came from, you still have blind spots of things you don’t know. This includes all of them. Michael Bloomberg is a wealthy person. It doesn’t mean he knows things. He knows some things. He knows how to position himself to make the wealth that he did, but to know things about how to even get on a debate stage and communicate, he clearly didn’t know and thought he could just do what he normally did in the past. You cannot speak like that.
All the money that he’s spent, $100 million or more on his ads and everything, did not help him perform on the debate stage.
It gave him the two opportunities to get on the debate stage. All of a sudden, he was then gone. Nobody’s following your message. Tom, more to come on this. Thanks, everybody. It’s been fun to role play and practice what to say back when somebody is not wearing a mask, what language to put in place and having some confidence to do that. All of us can learn more about how to communicate better.
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