As the pandemic presses on and restrictions ease, we are all trying to figure out how comfortable we are with certain social contact. This will likely create conflict with our family and friends that feel differently about what level of contact is comfortable. We all are different, have different tolerance for levels of risk, and have different circumstances with vulnerability to getting sick, and concern about who we might get sick if we are exposed. So how can we navigate these conflicts so we can respect different stances on socializing safely without causing rifts.
To begin with, we need to acknowledge that these disagreements can be difficult and why. The stress we are all feeling around Covid-19 can create situations ripe for tensions. Some of us are needing contact and closeness, others feel more anxiety around situations of increased conflict. It is also difficult to discuss these feelings because we are afraid of hurting others or afraid of the disagreement.
First of all, determine what level of contact you are comfortable with. You have the right to set your own level of risk. Identify your own rules, knowing they may change over time. Next, communicate your stance clearly and nondefensively, letting others know where you stand. This can take practice. Remain confident in where you stand and express it kindly. Be willing to say no if someone pushes back on your boundary.
It is important we all respect each other’s boundaries and support each other. Ask about the other’s boundaries, check in with them about what they are comfortable with. We need each other to get through this time and honoring each other can be an essential part of maintaining these connections.
Joleen Hartland MS, LCPC