Social and physical distancing is an important part of keeping you and others safe during the Coronavirus outbreak. Whether a friend or someone at the grocery store isn’t listening to the advice around physical or social distancing, it can be challenging to find the right way to tell them. Here are three ways to politely tell people to keep their distance.
3 ways to politely tell people to keep their distance
1. Strangers: If you’re at a grocery store and someone is standing a little too close for comfort (and it’s difficult to move away), here’s what you can say:
- “I know it’s challenging when we’re in a public space, but I’m trying to practice social distancing. Would you mind giving me some additional space? I’m trying to keep the vulnerable people in my life as safe as possible. Thank you for understanding.”
2. Friends: Friends of yours may think it’s okay to break the 2 metre rule because you’re familiar with one another, but physical and social distancing is just as important with friends. In fact, we should be limiting all social gatherings, no matter how small. Here’s what you can say to a friend if they’re not giving you the space you need:
- “I wish I could have you and the gals over for book club, but right now I have to make my health and the health of others a priority and I would feel terrible if we got one another sick.”
3. Family: Do you have family members who are particularly vulnerable? If so, it’s probably a good idea to keep your distance in order to keep them as safe as possible. Here’s what you can say to them if they are looking to spend time with you:
- “I want to catch up with you too, but your health is really important to me. In the spirit of social distancing, let’s schedule a FaceTime or Skype tonight instead. I can show you how to set it up if you’re not sure how.”
Here’s how to practice social distancing, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control:
Social distancing is a way that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close contact with others. Even though we are not sick, we should still keep about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed from one another when we can when outside our homes.
- Limit activities outside your home
- Use virtual options to connect with others
- If you are out in public, try to keep 2 metres between yourself and others.
- Keep your hands at your side when possible
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cough into your elbow or sleeve
- Avoid social activities in large gatherings
Did we miss anything? Share your tips for *politely* telling people you need some space below in the comments!
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How to report COVID-19 price gouging
Where do we fit in?
Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.
About Consumer Protection BC
We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.
26 thoughts on “COVID-19: 3 ways to politely tell people to keep their distance”
No matter the venue, a polite-toned “6 feet, please’ has worked for me. 😀
That sounds like an effective method! Thanks for sharing, Marsha!
Is it safe for tenants to whatever the laundry room in their high density building. Ie 500 tenants 5 washers 5 dryers
Hi Ally, you may want to use disinfectant wipes or paper towels to avoid touching frequently touched surfaces in the laundry room with your bare hands. More information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 can be found on the website of the BC Centre for Disease Control.
I am switching to the term “physical distancing”, which I feel is a more accurate. A side benefit is that it encourages social connection while remaining physically separate; for example even in the home we should keep our distance.
Good point, Greg! Thanks for your comment
“I wish I could have you and the gals over for book club, but right now I have to make my health and the health of others a priority and I would feel terrible if we got one another sick. Why don’t just you and I go for a walk outside together instead?”
Let’s go for a walk together?!!! Six feet apart I’d hope!
Hello Terry, thank you for your question. Yes, it’s recommended that everyone should be trying to stay 6 feet apart. For more info on physical distancing, I would suggest checking out this page from the Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/social-distancing.html. I hope this is helpful!
What advice or protocols for shared custody?
Should we be sending our kids back and forth?
Hi Vanessa, thanks for your question, but this is completely up to you! We would not be able to give advice on what will work best to keep your family safe as medical information is outside our area of expertise. Having said that, keeping up to date with recommendations from reliable sources (such as the provincial and federal governments, or health authorities) is probably your best bet. For example, here’s a resource on social distancing provided by the Government of Canada, which might be of interest to you. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.
In response to the lets go for a walk together?
Dr Bonnie says family can go out for a walk but not others, this is misinformation. Do not walk with friends. Need to talk to neighbours do it from across the road 6 feet away
Hi Connie, thanks for your comment. We wrote this blog post last week and we understand the situation has evolved since then. We wrote it with the intention that people would have to keep their distance (6 feet) if they went out together, but we’re aware Dr. Henry has recommended only interacting with immediate family that you live with. We’ve now updated the post to reflect the changes. Thanks for catching that!
Say, ” I’ve tested positive”.
Better 6 feet apart than 6 feet under.
Thank you for the opportunity to be heard. I decided to use your info and write a volunteer newsletter for the tenants in my building. Your tips on how to approach social distancing and reporting price gouging was great info. Thank you kindly.
Hi Darcel, thank you for your kind words! I’m so happy that you find the information helpful. You made my day!
I work in a deli department in a grocery store. My problem is coworkers. I am trying to stay 6 ft. away from everyone, but they do not respect my boundaries and continuously come very close to me to talk. When I say please stay 6 ft. away, they say rude comments like, “if you don’t like it, then wear a mask!” I asked the store director to talk to them, now they are accusing me of being paranoid when all I’m trying to do is follow the CDC guidelines. What would you suggest I do to make these people understand that they should stay 6 feet away to reduce the risk of spread?
Hi Pamela, that is a frustrating situation to be in. You may want to share the physical distancing guideline with them to let them know that physical distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak, and together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other.
How do I politely ask my mother in law to social distance from my son? He is only 8months old so when he’s in his pram she comes far too close to him.
Hi Emma, thank you for reaching out to us here! You may want to share the physical distancing information from the BC CDC and let them know that during this time of uncertainty, you’d like to err on the side of caution and lower the risk as much as possible.
I am hopeful that one of the positive outcomes from this virus will be reduced ‘fake’ hugging. My family, no matter if they like you or don’t, they are quite aggressive with the bear hug and kiss on each cheek. I try saying ‘air-hug’ while they approach to hug me. Unfortunately, that usually does not work, even during this virus time. I like some of these ideas and will try them.
I can not go to the store without someone not only violating the 6 foot rule, they are touching me! Politely asking for space has only caused most of these violators to be verbally abusive towards me. When this happened at Walmart, the staff told me that “social distancing is only a suggestion and will not ever be enforced”. Has anyone else experienced this, if so what did you do? I only leave my home for vital errands, but can not get people to stop touching me or trying to touch me. Before social distancing, no one tried to touch me. Once, after asking someone for social distancing space, the woman whispered in my ear, “I hope you die from the Corona virus.” HELP!!!
Hi Jillian, thank you for sharing your experience and sounds like it has been difficult for you. Have you tried the phrase we’ve suggested in this post? “I know it’s challenging when we’re in a public space, but I’m trying to practice social distancing. Would you mind giving me some additional space? I’m trying to keep the vulnerable people in my life as safe as possible. Thank you for understanding.” I know this sounds long and maybe awkward but the essence is there. It’s a sensitive topic to many people so asking people with kindness and friendliness is important. You probably do this already but going out when the store is quiet will also be helpful. We really hope that you feel safe and respected when you go out.
I have been polite and expressed the sentiment of your suggested response. I also go to the store during quiet times. Somehow, these people find me. Yesterday, in an almost empty store a woman put her arm around me and while we were face to face she said she could disregard social distancing because she felt I was taking too long to make my product selection, as I read labels and make conscientious food choices. I am the age of those who die from Covid 19.