The Gift Of Kindness, Social Distancing Etiquette Part One of Six

The Gift Of Kindness, Social Distancing Etiquette: Part One of Six

For the first time in a long time, I’m not traveling anywhere anytime soon. When it comes to my work, I’m going to talk about “gifting” in a different way — focusing on gifts like kindness, spending time together, and self-care in a new blog series. I am also committing to take online exercise classes, cook and bake, and have friends over virtually for my husband’s birthday. We’ll see how this goes…

I know this is an extremely tough time for everyone around the world. And my thoughts go out to each and every one of you to stay healthy and safe. While we all continue to grapple with the gravity of our current reality, our family and friends need us, and we need them. And I need you! I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas so please don’t be shy about leaving comments. Sign-up to receive my emails.


Social Distancing Etiquette, The Gift of Kindness: How to be polite when having tough conversations.

As we practice social distancing and staying in our homes, every now and the reality is that we still might need to go to the corner market or pharmacy to pick up an essential item. During a global pandemic and health crisis, anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high, making interactions with others tricky and awkward. But we must take the necessary measures to protect ourselves and stay healthy even if that means having uncomfortable interactions with those we know, and don’t know.

About two weeks ago, I was having a blowout when the hairdresser sneezed on me. Internally, I freaked out, but stayed calm in the situation. I politely asked if we could pause and both go wash our hands and clean the work area. He was extremely apologetic and said, of course. I was relieved that this could-have-been awkward interaction, wasn’t. It went smoothly and there was a mutual understanding of hygiene, even before the virus became as serious as it is today.

And then this happened.

A few days ago, my husband and I headed out for a quick must-do errand at the local bodega. As we finished picking up our items, I noticed a woman come in with her young child who was coughing quite aggressively. I certainly understood that she might not have childcare and, therefore, needed to bring her possibly sick child with her. Times are tough. She got in line just behind us at checkout and her child continued to openly cough. I turned around and politely asked her if she would please stand six feet away from us. There was no one line behind her. She immediately became hostile towards me and told me that she was doing everything she could, and that if I didn’t like it, I should leave the bodega. I tend to be a calm and non-confrontational person. But, this time, I admittedly had a total conniption fit. I reminded her that there is global pandemic and that children can be carriers, and that it was highly irresponsible of her to put everyone in the bodega at risk. I was shaking in disbelief about her reaction and became very anxious. What if this happens to others who are afraid to speak up and therefore become ill…

This unfortunate interaction led me to reflect on these questions about social distancing etiquette: How do we stay calm when other people disregard our polite requests? And what can we do to try and avoid a confrontation all together?

Practice kindness when speaking up. And make it about you, not them. In hindsight, I should have said to the woman in the bodega that I was nervous being out (even if I wasn’t), and not just politely asked her to step back. Once this first interaction went successfully, then maybe I would have had a chance to calmly and gently remind her of the health crisis at hand and that we all need to do our part.

Listen to others' concerns and do what they ask of you.
This is asking a lot of ourselves. You don’t need to say anything to the person requesting, just show kindness by doing. Maybe we should have immediately left the bodega and came back a little later.

Be intentional about your own self-awareness and attitude. If you’re not in a “good state of mind” stay home and find something to calm you down. If you must go out, practice self-meditation. If you become uncomfortable, step back (or take six), breath, and remind yourself that we are all anxious. If you keep calm, others hopefully will too and in the end, you get to praise yourself for this internal victory.


Use please and thank you. These simple words go a long way. Overuse them now, and always. Be intentional about your word choice and open and end all conversations with these two words. Many times, this will work. And if it doesn’t, you know you at least tried.

I truly believe that we need to practice kindness towards everyone, every day. But it may be more important than ever right now as we all continue to deepen our understanding of the gravity of our current reality.

My husband and I are practicing a 14-day, or longer, self-quarantine. This means zero in-person social interactions which is not our norm and will certainly be a challenge. I’d love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment about how you’re handling tough interactions. Until then, please practice kindness during this tough time. It’s a gift to yourself and others. Thank you.

Elisabeth Xx



2 Responses

Adam Z. Kawalek, MD
Adam Z. Kawalek, MD

March 27, 2020

Love this! Thanks for putting your eloquent spin on a serious public health matter!

Paul Wyszkowski
Paul Wyszkowski

March 27, 2020

As the pandemic peaks over the next days and weeks, we will almost certainly find ourselves in unnerving social situations which, in my case (I’m 86) may even be life threatening. Reacting with fear and anger would be counter-productive. We need to help the other person help us – we need to be in a position to communicate successfully with them so that the threat they pose can be diminished. Kindness can go a long way. Thanks for pointing that out.

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