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Social Graces: Here’s what to say to an out-of-town friend who wants to visit

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 1/18/2021 Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune
a person standing in front of a window: NEWS2USE-LIFESKILLS:TB-traveler-20210118. © Peter Ackerman/Dreamstime NEWS2USE-LIFESKILLS:TB-traveler-20210118.

Q: A friend from out of town wants to visit you, but you are not comfortable hosting someone right now due to COVID-19. How should you respond?

A: In this particular instance, you want to be honest with the person and say exactly why you do not want to host anyone, and you should do so in a way that’s not accusatory, meaning you don’t want to respond in a manner that makes the person feel bad. You also want to make your response about you as opposed to the other person. What I mean by that is you can say, “I want to do everything I can to protect you, so right now I’m not having any visitors stay in my home.”

However (and then this is where you ease the brunt), you can say to the visitor, while you’re here, how about we do something while social distancing — maybe there’s a park nearby that you can go to, hike a trail or something like that outdoors. Try to find something else that you might be able to do together, so the person doesn’t feel completely put off.

— Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and author of “Let Crazy Be Crazy”

A: It’s important to acknowledge that it’s valid for you to say no and to want to hold that boundary. It’s important to come to terms with your values, needs and boundaries.

When you share this, just try to ensure that your friend doesn’t feel too rejected. Make sure that while you express that boundary, you also express the happiness and joy that you would have felt if your friend had come. So you say something like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s been so long. I would totally love to see you. But I’m just not comfortable having people over until the pandemic is over. I totally hope that we can plan a time, once we’re all vaccinated, for you to come down.”

I also think it’s easier for people to accept a boundary when you offer them an alternative that can fulfill both of your needs. So you can share something like, “While I’m not comfortable having you over, maybe we can video chat or talk on the phone because I would still really love to reconnect with you.”

— Dr. Marisa G. Franco, psychologist and friendship expert

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