How to effectively communicate your social distancing boundaries

Social norms are rapidly changing out of necessity but some people are sticking to their old ways.

MADISON, Wis. — With Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” guidelines in place many Wisconsinites are practicing social distancing.

While social distancing won’t prevent the spread of the coronavirus it can slow it down. According to the World Health Organization, it took 67 days from the first documented case to grow to 100,000 people but only 11 days for that to double and another 4 days for it to reach 300,000 cases.

Social norms are rapidly changing out of necessity but some people are sticking to their old ways. John Boyne, a counselor at Madison College, tells News 3 Now that there are a number of reasons why people aren’t adhering to the latest rules.

“It could be someone has higher tolerance for risk, may misunderstand or be [unaware] of the medical recommendations, may disagree with it politically, or may simply not be paying attention in the moment,” Boyne wrote to News 3 Now.

Here are a few suggestions from Boyne on how to manage situations where others are not maintaining social distance recommendations:

Clarify your own values and decisions around the topic so you can stand firm:

  • Know the medical recommendations and the status of government orders (for example, Wisconsin’s current status of “Safer at Home” order).
  • Clarify why you want to implement the recommendations (for your own health, for the health of children and elderly in your life, for your community at large).
  • The argument that we are all connected and how our choices impact people who are not in the immediate area may be the most compelling. (What about your grandmother’s health?).

Use assertive communication:

  • You can proactively ask people around (friends, family, roommates) you how they want to respond to health recommendations. Usually people will find agreement.
  • If there is not agreement, you can make it firm that they cooperate with you.
    • “I disagree with your position on this but when you are around me, this is what I ask of you (insert your boundary.)”
  •  With strangers usually a kind request for distance will work, but you may need to be more assertive in that situation, if people are not paying attention. If it escalates into an argument in public, you may need to simply back away from the situation.

For more communication tips click here.