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Social Graces: Here’s what to do when vaccinated friends want to get together while you’re still at risk for the coronavirus

Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Some friends in your circle have received the coronavirus vaccine and want to get together. You haven’t received your vaccine yet, and your friends don’t think you’re still at risk around them. How should you handle it?

A: We always want to remember that good manners are about kindness, consideration and respect. It’s the wonderful way of putting other people before ourselves. In this scenario, I would phrase it about being in the interest of their health and safety, and not about you.

I might say, “Having received the shot, you probably want to ensure that you’re completely safe (as we know the vaccine isn’t yet 100 percent effective), so I’m going to decline.” Or, “In the interest of your health, I’m going to pass, since I’ve not yet been vaccinated.” What you’re really saying is, “I’m not comfortable. I’m not going,” but you’re phrasing it in such a way that you’re thinking about your friends and not yourself.

It’s completely OK to say “no,” and we often find ourselves doing the opposite in an effort to be nice. But we can say “no” and still be nice. It does take a bit of practice, but is well worth the effort. If you learn to say no in a firm, graceful and compassionate manner, you are not only respecting the other person, you are also sending a clear, polite message and will hopefully receive the same consideration in return.

Three polite ways to say no are: (a) “No, thank you,” (b) “I’m afraid I can’t make it” or (c) “this time doesn’t work for me” — always followed by, “but thank you for thinking of me.” Sometimes the more we elaborate, the more difficult and dishonest it can appear. Keep your message short, direct and kind.

— Susy Fossati, etiquette expert and founder of Avignon Etiquette

A: I think, first of all, you get to choose what you’re going to do and whom you’re getting out with, no matter what. This is essentially a boundaries question. So, you can set a boundary for any reason that you wish; you don’t have to justify it to anyone.


Part of the issue here is that there’s still risk with people who are vaccinated — at least it appears so with preliminary data. Less risk is certainly not no risk, and if you feel uncomfortable with that, know that it is completely valid.

When setting boundaries, I think it’s important to communicate the boundary and your feelings around the boundary, and to talk about the relationship.

The reality is people are very alone right now. They’re missing their friends; they’re missing being in the same room with their friends. So when communicating, try something like, “I really love you guys. You’re great. I do want to see you. I do want to spend time with you. It’s not about that; it’s about my sense of risk and me needing to set a boundary for myself. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hang out in the future. I’m looking forward to hanging out once vaccinated. I just I need to get that first.”

In my experience, it really does come down to being assertive. If you talk more about your feelings, people are more likely to respond favorably.

— Jason Best, therapist, founder of Best Therapies, and lecturer, University of Chicago

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