Etiquette And Coronavirus

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We are now almost three months into the Coronavirus, at least from the standpoint of sheltering at home and enduring quarantine. It was on or about March 13th that we first learned  we had to avoid contact with other human beings as much as possible. It’s been a long three months. If you’re on vacation three months pass quickly. When you are stuck in isolation, it’s  painfully long.

We have somehow managed. We have binged on Netflix; accepted old tee-shirts and sweat pants, even pajamas, as work attire; have started cocktail hour earlier with each passing day; have begun to look like the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” from spending too many hours bent over our computers and laptops; gotten more than our money’s worth from our tablets and smartphones. We’ve mastered technological challenges like Zoom and Facebook Live–tools we had never even heard of before.

Unfortunately, we have become cranky and feel quite comfortable acting like total jerks in public. We have no problem calling out people when they violate our space or when they fail to wear a face mask while we are struggling not to suffocate behind ours. It’s time to talk about things we can all do to survive the 2020 pandemic with a bit more grace and courtesy. It’s time to talk about etiquette amid Coronavirus.

Choose your words carefully. If you are doing your part to practice social distancing, communication is key and can serve as a reminder to others. When someone is too close for comfort, try saying, “Sorry, I’m just trying to keep distance” as you move away. A friend had an all-too-close encounter with a man in a grocery store. When she reminded him of the six-feet rule, he screamed an obscenity and informed her that she couldn’t tell him what to do. Words are critical particularly when you are wearing a face mask. Others cannot see your facial expression. They only have your tone of voice to go by. In this case, I don’t think an extra coating of sugar would have made any difference.

Greeting people. Greetings and interactions look different now. It’s oh-so-hard not to reach out a hand or offer a hug when seeing friends. We miss touching. Given that the majority of people know that these behaviors are off-limits, long explanations are not necessary. When someone comes toward you with arms outstretched, it’s easy enough to say, “I am so happy to see you but afraid of getting too close.”

Honor differences. In many areas restrictions are being lifted. Some people feel they can move about and interact freely. Others are still being cautious. Don’t be judgmental. No matter which side of the issue you fall on, give others the benefit of the doubt. You have no idea what their situation might be nor do they know anything about yours. If you are ready to break out of quarantine, proceed with consideration for others. You can follow your own instincts as long as they don’t endanger someone else. Your right to behave as you wish ends when it infringes on another person’s rights. I think that’s third-grade civics.

Wearing face masks. This has become a hot button everywhere. You only have to read or watch the news to learn about the extreme behavior of those people who have a “You can’t make me” attitude. No, it’s not a law; it’s a request. It’s a request made by many business owners who want all their customers and employees to feel safe. I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys wearing a face mask, but we do it. We do it to protect other people.  I am neither a doctor nor a scientist nor do I claim to be a health expert. I rely on the people who hold those titles. The majority of them are telling us to wear protective gear to slow the spread of Covid-19. Keep in mind that you don’t wear a face mask to protect yourself. You do it to protect others. It’s an unselfish act done out of courtesy and respect for others.

Let’s be kinder gentler people during this challenging time.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. While she has traveled across the US and as far away as India and Dubai, she can now come to you virtually to offer her wisdom. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits, especially during tough times.

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