Social Distancing: How to Have the Talk with Your Friends

With CDC guidelines for social distancing in place, it’s important for all of us to keep our distance from others, especially from those with compromised immune systems. However, as some places and states open up, more people want to start visiting friends while others stick to the side of caution.

If you want to keep your distance from others, but don’t know how to approach the topic with a friend who wants to see you, keep these suggestions in mind.

1. Know your boundaries.

Before you even approach the conversation with a friend, I urge you to think seriously about which types of social interaction you are comfortable with.

Perhaps you are living with immuno-compromised family members and are trying to limit your exposure as much as possible. Or maybe you live by yourself and are welcome to seeing people so long as they wear a mask.

Whatever the case is, make sure you know what you’re comfortable with and have those guidelines clear in your mind beforehand. If you worry that you will forget something during your conversation, then write it down.

By knowing your boundaries and being firm with them, you will be less likely to waver on your stance. When it comes to safety and health, you should not have to compromise your level of comfort.

2. Talk openly and sincerely.

Once you have established your personal boundaries, it’s time to relay them to your friend. I recommend doing this over the phone rather than by text as it will give your friend the ability to hear the sincerity in your voice. 

Be honest and inform your friend of your boundaries, whether you want to stick to FaceTime hangouts or if you are open to a socially-distant meeting. Whatever the case is, just make sure you are being honest about your situation.

3. Don’t give into peer pressure. 

Right now, there are people on opposite sides of the spectrum regarding social distancing. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting up with someone, but they keep insisting that meeting in person would be fine, hold your ground. 

A person might push back and say something along the lines of, “This person still hung out with me and they are fine,” or “Everyone else is getting together.” These tactics can be used to make you feel as though your worries are not justified, but the important thing is to remember those boundaries you set early on. 

Calmly explain to your friend that while they may be engaging in social activities, it is not something you feel comfortable partaking in right now. Even if it feels as though everyone else thinks differently, focus on yourself and your comfort level.

You also have a right to change your mind along the way. Perhaps you already had an in-person meeting with friends, but the whole time you felt extremely anxious and decided that you no longer want to do those. That’s alright!

Simply tell your friends that you were anxious during the outing and inform them of your new boundaries. This is a challenging time for all of us, so the best thing you can do is to prioritize yourself.

4. Suggest an alternative.

Since the pandemic initially hit, many people have thought of creative ways to keep in touch with loved ones. If you’re not comfortable with meeting someone in person, suggest doing weekly Zoom happy hours or hosting a Netflix party every Saturday.

Most likely, your friend just misses the company of other people, but until you feel comfortable enough to see them in person, propose these alternatives to ensure that you two still spend time together in some capacity.

5. If all else fails, take a break.

Even after being honest and suggesting an alternative, you may find that your friend is not happy with your decision. Someone may continue to push you to change your mind and use manipulative tactics. If this happens, simply respond, “This is my decision, please respect it.” 

Unfortunately, sometimes people won’t respect your decision and if that is the case, then take a break from that person for a while. A true friend will understand your worries and will respect the boundaries that you have placed.

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It can be difficult to handle social situations when a group of friends contains many different perspectives. If you have a friend approach you about this topic, remember to be respectful and listen to their concerns. That is important is that you stick with what feels comfortable for you and don’t pressure anyone into doing something they don’t want to do.

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