S2S Mentor

Ever since corona started a lot my friends have been careless about it. I find it very hard to even respect them at this point and even harder to still be friends with them. What do I do?

Hi!

Unfortunately I know a bit about what you’re going through right now, and I think the most important thing to do in this situation is to really do some evaluation of your relationship, and of the people themselves. 

As I briefly mentioned in my S2S post last week, being careless about corona does not mean someone is a bad person. It means they are making what I consider to be a very poor choice (assuming they don’t live in New Zealand or somewhere else where it’s safer of course), and yes, it’s a choice that affects other people as well as themselves, but it’s still only one thing and we should not let it define who and what a person is.

There are a lot of reasons people might not take corona seriously. Perhaps the news outlets they listen to simply don’t talk about it much, or they keep hearing our president and other government officials downplaying this virus or saying everything’s under control. Or maybe they just don’t pay a lot of attention to the news–We are all still young, and some kids/teens just don’t get into politics and current events at a young age. Whether that’s their choice or because their parents are sheltering them from the news, it does happen sometimes, and if they don’t understand the seriousness of the situation and why social distancing helps, can we really blame them for making that choice? Alternatively, maybe they’re convinced that their mental health can’t handle it. I know people who have made the choice to see a few friends, even though they know it’s not super safe, they feel it’s necessary for them. Another thought is that these are kids we’re talking about, and so if their parents are not being careful, apart from the fact that the kids will certainly be getting the message that that’s OK, they may truly see no point in distancing themselves when all around them, even within their own family, people are going about as normal. Of course any amount of more exposure definitely raises the risk for everyone, but if your parents are having guests over and going to parties, I can understand someone saying “you know, whether I like it or not, I’m not safe and the world is not safe from my family, so can it really make it any worse if I go to my friend’s house for the day?”. And yes, maybe they are listening to the news, seeing the graphs and hearing what they’re supposed to be doing, and just choosing not to follow those guidelines, I won’t pretend that that’s not a very real possibility.

Either way though, even if the latter reason is the real reason, I don’t believe these people are a lost cause. Not only do we still have a chance to change their minds (more on that in a bit!), they can still be very good and responsible people otherwise. So, do a little friend analyzing! I know that sounds a bit like something a stalker would say, but I promise you that’s not what I mean XD What I DO mean is that you should really take a look at who your friend is as a person when it comes to other topics. Do they take good care of their family? Their friends? Respect their teachers? Care about minorities, animal rights, or the environment? Feeding the hungry? It’s sometimes hard to know where your friends fall on the political spectrum, particularly at younger ages, but you probably have a good idea what they’re like when it comes to at least some of these topics (*cough* how they treat their friends *cough*), so if they fit at least a few of them, that can help you to respect them as people, even if you don’t respect this particular choice/stance of theirs. 

Now as I said before, it is sometimes possible to change your friends’ minds on things, and covid precautions are actually a little easier than other topics I think. It certainly won’t always work, so don’t get your hopes up too high (the most I’ve gotten is for them to realize what they’re doing wrong, not to actually change anything : / ), but it can’t hurt to give it a try! Finding the entry point to that conversation is always going to be the hardest part, because coming out of nowhere it definitely comes across as an attack, but something that’s worked for me is when a friend mentions something like going on a sleepover, or traveling, or starting school, I just ask what the precautions will be like. Have the families been quarantined mostly together? Are they flying or driving, staying in hotels or camping? What are the mask requirements like? This way it starts out as complete curiosity, and then if and when they give a not-so-great sounding answer, you can say something like “Wow, I definitely wouldn’t feel safe or right doing that”, and that can be your intro. My advice for continuing the conversation once you get it going would be, strange as it might seem, to focus on the positive. For instance, talk about what a big difference masks make, comparing with to without...that way you get across how bad it can be without masks, but also how it’s not actually hopeless if we can just take action. Site references and science, but don’t actually bombard them with links or anything (Unless they ask for them, which is a great sign!) just mention how well other countries are doing and what they’re doing differently, or smaller scale things like comparing school districts with different guidelines in place. Plus, make a big deal about the whole “it’s not for me, it’s for everyone else” thing, because although there are kids (without preexisting conditions) who have had bad outcomes with this virus, we do in general have an easier time with it, and it’s hard to make people worry about themselves when they keep being told their fine. So instead, talk about worrying for your parents, grandparents, teachers, and even complete strangers in hospitals and nursing homes, etc.! Having personal ties to being careful is certainly a big help, but it’s also good to make it clear that this has an affect on the world in general, and in fact, the fact that if someone is not being careful and is asymptomatic, they could never know how many people are getting sick due to them. 

Now just let me make one thing very clear....You do NOT ever have to have these conversations if you don’t want to!! They can be very uncomfortable and sometimes unhealthy if your friends are not being responsive, so know that not only do you never have to start a discussion like this unless you really would like to, you can also end it at any time. Here’s a sample closer line that you can pop in at any moment: 

“OK, so I can see that I’m not really getting anywhere, and I don’t want to get too worked up about this, so I guess we should put this conversation on hold for now. You know how I feel about this situation and your current [see, still not closing the door on them for good!) stance on it, but if you have any questions about the research or how I’m handling this, you’re more than welcome to ask! I know that I made the difficult choice that may be scary to think about, but I fully believe it was the right one. Thank you for this conversation. *Insert nice emoji of choice here*”
Of course, that’s just an example of what you could say, but yeah, don’t feel bad or scared to cut off a conversation if it’s not getting anywhere/making you uncomfortable!

So, I realize that most of this post so far has been about how to respect your friends (mostly because that’s where my own experience is), but at the same time, if you truly don’t feel that you won’t to be friends with someone, that’s OK, and you should not feel pressured to remain friends with them. You deserve friends with which you can share a mutual love, trust, and respect, and if you find yourself not getting those things, it’s OK to end that friendship! You will find others who will be all that you need and deserve, I’m sure of that, so don’t get too hung-up over parting ways with someone now if you’re not happy with them. I know it could be hard, getting up the courage, or feeling like you’re doing them a disservice, but if you can’t make it work, no matter the reason, you are absolutely in the right to tell them so, or to just slowly try to drift away. Friendship is–to me at least–one of the most beautiful things in the world (I’m talking real beauty though, not artificial, so yes there will be blemishes, but those will only enhance the beauty of everything else!), so if you don’t see or feel any of that beauty, maybe that’s because it’s not there and it’s not really a true friendship. 

I of course don’t know exactly how you’re feeling right now though, so I’m going to finish by saying that the choice is completely up to you and you should trust in your own decision-making abilities, that if you choose to try to keep the friendship going there are some tips up above, and a reminder that you’re not alone in this! You have friends on here who are taking covid seriously, (again, see last week’s post, particularly the comment section!), and you can always PM me if you need someone to talk to <3

 

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