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How to break the news that you’re staying home



Tough talks can be stressful, but not having them can be more so

How to break the news that you’re staying home for the holidays


I have a good friend who, like all of us, is not only stressed out about Covid-19, she’s also stressed about making a decision whether or not to travel over the holidays. 

Once she makes that decision, there will be new stress: if she decides her family will visit relatives, it will be stressful. If she decides not to, the prospect of disappointing others is stressful. That’s a lot of very unpleasant stress. And when one is feeling that particular brand of discomfort, it’s hard to think clearly. 

Luckily, Murphey Maroney at Popsugar has some very helpful advice on how to clear your head and do what’s best for you and your family, even friends and relatives who will be disappointed, or ones who do not take the pandemic seriously.

Yes, it likely will be an awkward conversation, but Maroney advises laying it all out, preferences, boundaries, and fears, from the get-go. Not unlike the age-old wisdom of ripping off the Band-Aid rather than pulling incrementally, or jumping into the cool water rather than wading.

Regarding the actual doing, interviewee Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says to keep it simple.

“This is about your health and the health and safety of your family and friends,” he says. “You have every reason to be concerned and even scared. Be specific with regards to what your perceived risks are and the precautions that you are committed to taking. Would you prefer a virtual gathering? Be clear about it. Acknowledge differing opinions and understanding. Be explicit that while your opinion may be different, you are not willing to accept what you perceive as an increased risk to your health and safety and that this is not something you are willing to compromise, nor be convinced otherwise. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but you are not willing to debate yours.”

READ MORE: What are your travel plans for 2021?

If you decide to visit, but set boundaries others refuse to follow – like masks and distancing – Gonsenhauser offers a script:

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground. My health and safety (and that of my family) are my number one priority, and your decisions are placing me (us) at risk. If you are not willing to make a small and temporary compromise in order to allow me to feel safe and at ease, the answer is no.”

Gonsenhauser strongly suggests employing this “hard no.” It could be met with resistance, attempts at manipulation, and threats. (Families!) But there can be great power in the hard no – also known as the “hard pass” – especially if you repeat it more than once, without deviation. 

Words are powerful, particularly when spoken. Saying: My health and safety (and that of my family) are my number one priority, and your decisions are placing me (us) at risk can give you the strength to get through, whether it’s talking to your direct family about why you’re not traveling, or talking to relatives who pressure you to ignore your own interests.

As hard as it may seem to realize when you’re stressed, sticking to your guns is probably the best thing you can do to have actual happy holidays.



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