When news of COVID-19 first broke and communities started putting social distancing measures into place, many (including me!) hoped that this health challenge would bring folks across the United States together. After years of disconnect and division among Americans, perhaps this would be the experience that could draw us closer to one another; to appreciate our commonalities rather than our differences.
And this is happening. Communities are banding together to help small businesses stay open, support frontline health care workers, and assist those struggling with food insecurity.
But there is also a rift that's forming between some neighbors, family members, and friends who see the COVID-19 precautions through different lenses. I'm not here to debate the various sides of the issue, but I can offer some guidance for how to maintain relationships with those who see things differently than you.
Communicate "In Person" When You Can
Social media and texting can be great tools for keeping in touch with friends, but messages on these digital platforms can be easily misconstrued. If you notice conflict arising with a friend you're texting or instant messaging, instead try FaceTime or Skype. Just seeing each other's body language and facial expressions can help clear up miscommunications. Being able to have genuine, open dialog can also be more effective when discussing complex, emotion-heavy subjects like the pandemic.
Keep Your Overall Anxiety Level In Check
Are you highly anxious and worried? Now might not be the best time to communicate with those who have a different perspective. Irritability is a symptom of anxiety, and one way to manage that is to decrease participation in situations that you know are going to frustrate you.
Be Mindful of Your Substance Use
Having a few glasses of wine or beer, then jumping onto Facebook to comment on others' posts, can be a recipe for disaster. When we are intoxicated (or even "buzzed"), we can misinterpret others' intentions, can get overly emotional about others' posts, and can lose our own filter when sharing ideas of our own. After a few drinks, put the phone down. And at the same time, be aware of late night comments from your friends and take them with a grain of salt.
It's Okay for Some Topics to Be Off-Limits
Remember that old adage that we shouldn't talk about politics or religion? Well, we might be able to add COVID-19 and its aftermath to that list. Despite what the media tells us, we can have perfectly lovely relationships with people we disagree with about these things. If you're experiencing a strained relationship because of conflicting views about COVID-19, try avoiding the subject altogether.
If All Else Fails, Take a Break
COVID-19 and social distancing aren't going to last forever. If the stress and strain it's causing on a relationship is just too much, it's okay to take a break. Sometimes taking a step back from a relationship in the short term is the best thing we can do to preserve it for the long term.
Article Originally Published on ACOG Career Connection