Edited by Jasmine Ryu Won Kang
I’m not the first to tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging. We’ve all had to become more careful around our universities, homes, and communities. The adjustment has been hard on everyone, especially when loneliness sets in. Now that students are heading back to campuses and restrictions are tightening again, it’s especially important to be having those tough conversations about safety with your friends. I’ve had to talk to a few friends myself about safety and risky behavior – it can be daunting to discuss something so polarizing, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a friendship. Here are some personal tips that I’ve used to respectfully and effectively discuss safety with loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Be Mindful of Time and Place
My personal practice is to always call a friend to firmly discuss safety precautions before meeting outside and physically distancing. This can limit any uncomfortable actions in person and is much more personal than a text message. If something does make you worried while in person, having already had this candid conversation beforehand will make it easier for open dialogue without any negative emotions. Be willing to bring up any safety concerns, but be mindful of where you are and who you’re with.
- Keep it Objective
It can be easy to make moral arguments around safety, but putting your friend on the defensive is unlikely to convince them to take your concerns seriously. As opposed to emotional or moral arguments, I found that pragmatic and logical appeals were easily discussed and often agreed-upon among friends.
- Tone is Key
Arguments aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind. It’s important to remember that these conversations should come from a place of concern, not fault-finding. Strong emotions are understandable, but anger is unlikely to lead to an open conversation. If I notice my friend becoming agitated, I take a moment to collect myself and remind them that I genuinely care for their well-being.
- Offer Concrete Suggestions
There’s so much false information distributed online, especially since the information surrounding the pandemic can change on a daily basis. I’ve found that people respond favorably to credible examples of safe behavior more than a simple outline of what actions are incorrect. By having conversations about proper mask-wearing and hand hygiene, you can offer examples of safe behavior that can be easily understood and implemented.
- Be Firm with Boundaries
This can be especially important if a person within your household is engaging in risky behavior. Personal safety and comfort should be a priority. Be clear about what you are comfortable with, and don’t concede your safety out of a desire to comply with others’ choices. If a friend is unwilling to accommodate your boundaries of comfort, it may be wise to reevaluate the role of this individual in your social circle.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and it isn’t universal. I don’t pretend to know what’s best for every friendship, and I offer my personal insights only to help open the dialogue regarding COVID-19 safety. Personal wellness and safety should always the main priority. Be sure to follow the Ontario Guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety and social gathering, and be clear about your comfort zone. These can be isolating times, but it’s important to remember that there are many physically distanced and safe avenues that we can use to keep in touch with our loved ones.