Here’s How to Talk About Social Distancing So Your Loved Ones Take It Seriously

Hi! This is an overwhelming, confusing, scary time. That said, I feel like we really have to talk about social distancing. I don’t know about you, but I find it really tough under the best and most non-pandemic-y of circumstances to make sense of the firehose of information that comes at us day in and day out. So, in what I can only imagine are the almost worst of circumstances, it feels basically impossible. There’s just so much to pay attention to, to sort out, to try to understand.

But I do feel like we’re all starting to get on the same page about the new coronavirus—that it’s an unprecedented crisis that’s wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of lives as well as all of the systems we rely on for our society to, well, function. That if we don’t take it very seriously very immediately, an already terrifying crisis can very well become catastrophic. And yet I think we all have someone (or someones) in our lives who still isn’t taking this seriously. Maybe they aren’t totally convinced that they really do need to stay home. Or maybe they’re kind of on board with mostly staying home but will probably keep going to the gym or something.

I spent this last weekend and a chunk of last week communicating with these someones in my life about how important it is to practice social distancing, and to do it properly. I’m fortunate to work at a place where our whole entire thing is providing people with accurate information that will empower them to make choices for their health and bodies. Not only do I spend every day working with experienced health reporters, I’ve also learned a lot about how to talk about health topics without being condescending or pandering or judgmental or snarky. This skill set has come in really handy as I’ve been talking to the people in my life about how seriously we should all be taking the pandemic. If you’re looking for ways to make an impact right now—ways that don’t compromise your social distancing—having these conversations is a good start.

If you’re trying to figure out what to say to these people, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find the three things I did/said this weekend that actually led to real behavior change in my circle (which then led to changes in their circles too). Feel free to copy and paste some or all of this to your people. (Also, it’s absolutely crucial that the only information we’re spreading right now is accurate, so if someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them that. Refer them to a trusted source, like SELF or any of the several places listed here.)

1. I sent this plainly but strongly worded email to my family.

When I realized that loved ones (my 78-year-old parents, my brothers, cousins, and aunt) might not realize how dangerous it is (for some of them and all of us) to be out and about right now, I panicked. I mean, I really freaked out. I wondered how I could get them to take this seriously. So I wrote this email.

Please copy and paste as you see fit and email it far and wide.

As most of you know I am beating the drum of practicing social distancing starting right now because of how important it is to flatten the curve and help prevent the spread of coronavirus, which is potentially deadly for anyone who’s immunocompromised or over 60. Staying inside your home until further notice helps prevent transmission of the virus and that is just what we need to do to prevent the kind of thing we are seeing in northern Italy—such widespread infection that hospitals do not have the resources to treat everyone, causing a literal collapse of their health care system as doctors and nurses have to choose who gets treatment and who dies—literally.

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