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Tips For Talking About COVID

Talking about COVID with loved ones can be incredibly difficult. Maybe you see people's eyes glaze over when you mention it, you might be met with uncomfortable silence, or a swift change in topic by your conversation partner. You might be wondering, how can I encourage them to really listen? How can I set boundaries with people about my precautions?

While the following tips may not work in all circumstances, everything I've listed here has been successful in some way, either for me or other COVID conscious folks I've encountered.

Know your audience.

  • How you frame the conversation will be different depending on who you're speaking to. Is it your teenager, elderly mom, your primary care doctor or someone else?

  • Sharing research studies may more effective for your doctor or the scientists in your life, but may not have the same impact for others.

Schedule the conversation.

  • I love this strategy when working with couples, but it can apply to anyone you want to have a tough conversation with.

  • It's easy for people to shut down when you bring up a difficult topic unexpectedly. Having a planned discussion can make it easier for people to feel prepared, rather than ambushed.

  • This might look like saying, "hey, there's something important to me I'd really like to talk with you about. When might be a good time for us to talk?"

Get consent.

  • Similar to scheduling the conversation, this can be helpful for both parties to feel more prepared about what's to come.

  • This might look like saying, "I'd really like to have a conversation about COVID together, is that something you'd be open to doing?"

Show empathy.

  • Acknowledge to your conversation partner that talking about COVID can be overwhelming, and may trigger a lot of feelings like fear or sadness. You can normalize for them that you feel those things too.

Lead with emotions rather than facts.

  • This may seem counterintuitive for the logical/analytical thinkers out there, but hear me out. For those without much of a science background, yelling about t-cells is more likely to confuse and overwhelm people, rather than help them see your side.

  • For a lot of people, it isn't the facts or research that's going to influence them, but rather the emotion and connection in your relationship.

  • I've found that reframing COVID precautions as an act of love and support rather than a burden, has led to more people willing to mask up for me.

  • This might look like saying, "When you wear a mask around me, it shows me how much you love me and care about my wellbeing," or "I know how much you love me, one meaningful way you could show that would be wearing a mask."

Lead with your boundaries.

  • I know many people have been hesitant to reach out to loved ones about spending time together, for fear of judgement about their precautions.

  • Maybe you're worried, "what if they ask me to go to a restaurant, I'll feel so awkward saying no!"

  • Instead of waiting for them to suggest a get together you're not comfortable with, try leading with some options you would be open to.

  • This might look like saying, "Hey, it's been a while since we've seen each other! I'd love to catch up soon. Would you be down to meet outside at the local park?"

Show you're open to discussion.

  • Maybe you tried to get consent and schedule the conversation, but that person isn't ready or doesn't feel comfortable.

  • If you are open to it (and it's okay if not), let them know you're there to talk if they change their mind.

  • This might look like saying, "I understand you don't feel ready to talk about this with me, but if you ever want to learn more I'd be happy to share what I know."

Find other people who understand.

  • Maybe you don't have anyone irl who's as COVID safe as you are. Maybe you've already tried talking to the people in your circle but haven't gotten the response you'd hoped for.

  • Finding connection with other still COVIDing people can be a huge relief. It can be very powerful, and healing, to talk to other people who really get it.

  • Whether you find connection online through social media groups, or scope out some local COVID safe meetups, it can really make a difference in your mental health.

  • Not sure where to look? There are a lot of "still COVIDing" groups on Facebook, as well as sites like to start looking for connection.

  • Look for a COVID conscious therapist:

  • If you're in California and want to join my group therapy space, Pandemic Processing, please send me a message and I'll get you the info for upcoming groups.

Give yourself grace.

  • I've said it before, and I'll say it again, these conversations can be HARD. I am certainly not perfect at this either. You're doing the best you can under some very difficult circumstances.

  • I see you, I hear you. I'm sending love and empathy to you. You are not alone in this struggle.

Have any of these worked for you? Have you found other helpful strategies? I'd love to hear about them! Comment on this post or send me a message about what you've found success with!

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