Talking to Friends and Family About Physical (Social) Distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has come with a lot of challenges and stress. There seems to be new information every day on what to do and what not to do to keep yourself safe and healthy. With states already opened back up, it may seem like things are “back to normal,” but this is far from true. Many states, including Florida, California, Texas and Georgia have all seen increases in cases in the past 14 days. And though there is a constant stream of information regarding the virus, there are three consistent messages that federal, state and local health authorities have been putting out: 

  • Wearing a face covering 
  • Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds (or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when this is not possible)
  • Physically distancing at least 6 feet away from others 

Physically Distancing is Still Important 

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to use all three of the above measures. Physically distancing is still extremely important as we continue to see an increase in cases in the U.S. and elsewhere. But what if you have friends or family that don’t see the importance of it? Maybe wearing a mask gives them a false sense of security and they feel they can go out more often. Maybe they feel confident in their own personal health and don’t mind going out. Whatever the reason, talking to your loved ones who disagree about physically distancing can be a challenge, so here are some ways to guide that conversation: 

  • Start by asking sincere questions about where they are coming from – People respond to stress differently so talking to your friends/family about how they are dealing with the pandemic could be helpful. 
  • When you share your concerns, also share your vulnerability – Coming from a place of empathy as opposed to data and statistics can often be more effective and lower the chances of the conversation becoming one-sided or defensive. 
  • Think critically about any judgmental feelings you may be having – It’s natural to feel judgmental when we see behavior we don’t agree with. The important thing is that we not led that lead to blame on the other person as that can make understanding one another more difficult. 
  • Recognize these conversations will be more effective with your close network – Instagram or Facebook posts to the masses about the importance of physical distancing can be helpful, but in terms of having direct conversations, it’s easier for people to see you coming from a place of love when it’s someone you are already close with. 
  • Determine your boundaries and communicate them clearly – Most people want nothing more to visit family and friends during this time, but a lot of people still want to stay low risk. Communicate what you feel comfortable with and respect others’ boundaries as well. 
  • If you are the one who wants to go out, express why you feel that way – If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, reach out to friends and family to share those emotions. Work out some ways you can support and spend time with each other that aren’t in person.  

In addition to those conversation guides, remembering a few other points can be helpful, too. Conversations don’t always go as planned. If you make a mistake, if it gets too confrontational, take a step back. Let them know you messed up and want to try again. One of the most important things to remember is that despite our best efforts, people may still not agree with us or see our point of view. We must accept that we can’t control other people. 

Any member of the Stetson community who has been to campus in the last 14 days and feels they may have come into direct contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing the following symptoms: fever over 100.4, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, possible nausea/diarrhea, possible loss of taste/smell – should alert Stetson immediately. Fill out this online form: Stetson University: COVID-19 Report a Concern Form. During business hours, call Health Service (386-822-8150). After business hours, call Public Safety in DeLand (386-822-7300) or Gulfport (727-343-1262). If you are concerned about someone else’s exposure, also let us know, don’t just tell them to do so. This applies to our DeLand and College of Law students, faculty and staff.