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Had The COVID Conversation Yet? Here’s How To Navigate The Topic With Your Friends

Had The COVID Conversation Yet? Here’s How To Navigate The Topic With Your Friends

Just last week an ex-colleague (let’s call him Mr. Y) of my dad decided to show up at our home randomly. Dad got a call just five minutes before his arrival where he was informed that Mr. Y was nearby and thought he’ll “just come by and say hi.” Now, given that we haven’t had any guests since March, the information didn’t really go well with most of us. 

But that wasn’t it. Not only did he decide to come to our house before asking if we’d be comfortable with the same, but Mr. Y also sat on our couch for two hours straight without any semblance of a face mask in his proximity. So casual was he with the whole situation that he wasn’t even carrying a mask! And to our abject horror, my dad didn’t have the heart to either ask him to put on a mask or put on his own. “That would have looked rude, no?” he later asked me when I quizzed him about the same. 

Quite pissed with all that had transpired, my brother had something rather interesting to say: “We should make a board of rules and hang it outside the main gate!” And while he might have said that in anger, the idea appeared way better to me than just sitting sans a mask with somebody who clearly has an entirely different approach to the pandemic than you right now. 

That said, we don’t necessarily need a full-blown board stating social distancing rules outside our house to navigate our social lives during the pandemic. However, we certainly need something similar, a COVID-19 conversation perhaps comprising of a discussion on your boundaries and comfort levels right now. Think it’s time you had the COVID conversation? Here’s what you need to do:

Why Is It Important to Have The COVID Conversation?


While you might find yourself in uncomfortable situations and feel too shy or embarrassed about reminding people of social distancing rules, it is important to understand that these are unprecedented times. We need to keep in mind that pandemic etiquette is not something normal to most of us given that we have never seen a similar time before. However, that doesn’t diminish the COVID-19 threat even one bit. Whether we like it or not, pandemic etiquette is the need of the hour and while you might be on board with the idea there would be those who wouldn’t be.

Thus, even though you might want to wear a mask before meeting someone right now, it is a possibility that they might not be doing it. Now, instead of rueing the situation, you should have the COVID conversation that will save you the infection fears as well as a friend. 

Start Your COVID-19 Conversation At Home


Now, before you go about getting mad at visitors and friends for flouting the social distancing rules or crossing boundaries that you have set up for yourself and your family, it is important to discuss them at home. For instance, I could have saved a lot of time, drama, and disinfectant spray if I had the COVID conversation with my dad before Mr. Y’s visit. Sit with your family or roommates and mutually decide your boundaries, set a few ground rules, and ensure that you are going to follow them.

Laying Out Ground Rules


Before you have the COVID conversation with your friends/visitors, it is important that you lay the ground rules first and know what you are talking about when you actually do it. Now, some of these rules might be absolutely non-negotiable like wearing a mask and maintaining a distance of two metres. However, there are more confusing, greyer areas that need to be covered as well. To begin with, what’s the understanding of a two-metre distance that your visitor has. Also, they might bring along children and you don’t want them to go around touching everything in the house. Again, you perhaps have your reservations about visitors using the washroom at home or even touching handles and similar surfaces. No matter how difficult it gets, you need to incorporate all these pointers in your ground rules. 

Navigating The Conversation With Your Friends/Visitors


With family all informed and ground rules all set now comes the hard part: conveying all of this to your friends/visitors. Here are some things that you can keep in mind for the conversation to go smoothly: 

  • Be polite but don’t be apologetic. You have all the rights to think about your safety and the rules are actually good for both you and the friend. You can start by saying something on the lines, “Hey, do you mind if….?” You can both make them feel welcome and yet set boundaries. 
  •  Use humour to cut the tension if you still feel uncomfortable raising it directly. Something like “See you in the evening. Let’s mask up!” can work just fine for you. You can alternatively, send informative illustrations to them. 
  • State your purpose. Tell them that you are trying to stay safe and while you definitely want to meet your friends, you also want to ensure that your 60-year-old dad or seven-year-old kid is safe while you are at it. 
  • You can actually install a sanitiser dispenser or just a wash station at the entrance just to establish how serious you are with the intent and your COVID conversation. 
  • Even if you are the one visiting someone, you can totally discuss their comfort levels, boundaries, and float certain requests if you still feel apprehensive about the precautions being practiced at their home. 
  • There is no harm in repeating. In case you feel like things are not going as per your plan, you can totally repeat your social distancing boundaries sans any shame or remorse. 
  • Remind them that we are all in this together. 

Lastly, it is important to realise that no social obligation is more important than your health and life, and thus, having the conversation is way better than putting yourself at a risk. 

Featured Image: Unsplash 

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14 Jul 2020

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