April 7, 2020
As a liberal, gay man who was raised in a conservative Christian home, I learned long ago how to survive in spaces where I don’t agree or get along with those around me. I don’t know about thriving, but you try surviving with my family, especially during a pandemic.
With COVID-19 trapping us all inside, it is very likely you are now living in close proximity with people who annoy you. With the help of my trauma, I figured I’d offer the few tips I have to help you during this crazy time. You’re welcome!
(Ties pride flag around neck to look like a superhero cape.)
Drinks and Weed.
First and foremost, don’t forget the beauty of alcohol or weed. In the state of Colorado, you can now get cocktails from your favorite bars to-go or even delivered.
It’s way easier and less stressful to argue with your quarantine mates about whose turn it is to roll the dice than whose turn it is to throw a passive-aggressive comment about their B.O. Keep the games coming. For exponential effect, combine this tip with my first one.
It’s hard to argue when a film is going. During Christmas, multiple confrontations were averted because my brother and I just kept the “Home Alone” films rolling. Yes, even the third one. Why? Because we didn’t want to argue. Which brings up a caveat: if you’re really concerned about conflict, find a series. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and you can just click “Next Episode.”
For the love of Jesus, get outside. Being stacked on top of each other doesn’t help. Plus, there’s scientific evidence for conflicts being averted when someone is facing the same direction as you. That’s why driving with someone or talking at a bar are great spaces to have a hard conversation (that and point one). There’s something about facing the same direction that psychologically makes both parties believe they’re going after the same thing, making it easier to talk about hard subjects.
Pick your battles.
If and when my avoiding techniques fail you, decide what’s worth fighting for. Is yelling at your brother for not flushing the toilet a battle worth having? Maybe. Depends on how much toilet paper you saw wadded up in that mess. The fact of the matter is, you might be trapped in your shared space for a while, so try to keep the peace. That said, there are moments where enough is enough, and my enough is when I get super passive-aggressive and start eating far too much bread. When that happens, it’s time for a convo. Which brings me to my next point.
Use humor and “I feel” language with hard convos.
I have found that when you can address an issue through a tease, it’s far more receptive. “Hey Thaddeus, can you use less toilet paper? I’d rather not die at the hands of a Walmart mob today. Thanks!” Direct, but humorous. Now for the “I feel” language. The beauty of “I feel language” is that no one can argue with it. It’s the best! For example: “Hey, Thaddeus, can we chat? I feel that you’ve been eating all the food I’ve purchased, and I feel you have yet to make a contribution. When I feel that you are doing that, it makes me feel disrespected, and I begin to feel resentment towards you. You feel me?”
7. Finally, when in doubt, remember that everyone is fighting their own invisible battles and they are the product of their circumstances.
One thing that helps me deal with my dogmatic parents is remembering that their strict beliefs created safety for them when they had no one else to lean on. When things are black and white, a person can feel safer when they feel they’ve done all the right things. Take that away from them, and they panic.
Maybe your COVID counterparts aren’t behaving the best. But who is right now? The economy is crapping out and there are wives feeding their husbands to tigers. We live in a strange world and there are likely to be some strange behaviors. Stress makes us do crazy things. But kindness is one of the best cures for stress, and you have the power to bring that to someone today.
When all that fails, combine all the points: get your housemates drunk, while sitting next to them on a couch, while playing “Words with Friends,” as you binge a terrible Netflix series, after you’ve all just taken a walk.
Good luck and stay safe out there, friends!