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How To Face Consistent Social Distancing Rule Breakers

 Deciding whether or not to comment on someone’s behavior in a public space has always been difficult. Many people get annoyed if someone cuts the line to get to the front or doesn’t pick up after their dog, but feel uneasy calling out those who engage in these actions. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought new physical distancing and personal hygiene rules with it, and dealing with rule-breakers has become even more complex. You may be torn between not wanting to confront people about their behavior and the desire to protect yourself and stay safe. We hope these 6 tips will help you the next time you face a sticky situation with a social distancing rule-breaker.

1. Talk it out

How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers conversation

Sometimes the most obvious solution to a problem is the one we have a hard time seeing or rather implementing. If someone is breaking social distancing rules around you, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them to follow the guidelines and explain why you are having this conversation with them.

“Back up your reasoning with facts,” says Jennifer Tomko, a psychotherapist at Clarity Health Solutions. “Sometimes education can help change someone’s mind.” Of course, this approach may not always work, but it’s definitely worth a try before you decide to remove yourself from a certain situation or distance yourself from an acquaintance.

2. Refrain from shaming

How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers man and woman fight

One thing that’s important to remember is that if you do choose to use your words, shame and blame don’t work as well as empathy and benefit of the doubt. While it is true that some people have decided to not wear masks to make a statement, that is far from being the case for every person you see without face protection or who is standing too close to you. It is possible that social distancing just isn’t natural for them, and they simply forget to follow the rules. 

“The best advice when dealing with social distance rule breakers is to assume (or at least pretend) the infraction is innocent and not malicious and to use a tone that’s nonjudgmental and value-neutral,” says Nick Leighton, etiquette expert, to Reader’s Digest. Using a kind and polite tone of voice, rather than a harsh one could go a long way.

Related: 5 Lesser-Known Ways to Lower Covid-19 Infection Risk

3. Set a personal example

How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers man with mask applies sanitizer
Over the years, studies on disaster preparedness have shown that one of the most efficient ways to get people to adopt new habits is to model them. “The literature shows that people will change their behavior if there are three conditions in place: they know what to do, why to do it and they see other people like themselves also doing it,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, to Time Magazine. 

4. Seek Help

How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers work environment
If you’re in a professional setting, it would be best to let management deal with social distancing rule-breakers rather than doing it on your own. Certain places even allow employees to make anonymous reports on such issues, so they feel more comfortable and they don’t need to ‘out’ a co-worker and potentially harm their relationship with them.

5. Use body language

How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers distance
You can always take a literal step back when you’re around someone who isn’t following social distancing rules. If they do not respect the six-feet rule, take initiative, and physically distance yourself. If that doesn’t work, cross your arms and lean back with your body. This will subtly give other people a hint that you’re not interested in getting too close. Body language is especially important now, as reading facial expressions is difficult due to the masks. 
6. Only focus on what you can control
How To Face Social Distancing Rule Breakers woman relaxing with face mask
The pandemic isn’t just a trying time for our physical health, but for our mental health as well. Remember, that in most cases, you have no control over anyone’s decisions but your own. Reminding yourself to focus on the things that are in your control can make for a healthier approach. Spare yourself the frustration of other people’s behaviors by knowing that you are doing your best to stay safe, and that’s the best you can do.
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