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Two people keep their distance while speaking to one another on the pier in North Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, 2020.


While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared “enough is enough,” and has urged those disregarding physical-distancing measures to “go home and stay home,” it also falls upon Canadians to try to convince their own friends and family members to heed the advice of public health authorities.

The rules on social isolation are changing. André Picard has the answers to your latest questions

How do you tell your parents to quit popping over to visit? How do you ask your friend to quit sharing false information about the new coronavirus on your WhatsApp group? What can you do if your spouse keeps making needless trips to the grocery store?

To make sure they stay safe and keep their distance, here’s how to gently coax them to do the right thing:

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Give them the benefit of the doubt

Being denied the ability to socialize and interact face-to-face with one another has been tough on people, and keeping up with the swift changes in public health recommendations has been particularly challenging, says Toronto etiquette expert Lisa Orr. A little more than a week ago, it may have been acceptable to have a friend over to your home for coffee, but today, such interactions are out.

Assume that others aren’t quite as up-to-date as you are of the latest restrictions, Ms. Orr suggests.

“I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re not getting the same information as I am,” she says.

By giving them the benefit of the doubt, you’re less likely to respond in anger by saying, “how could you not know?” or “how could you put other people at risk?” she says.

Share your position, and explain why

If your in-laws insist on coming over for dinner or seeing the grandchildren, Ms. Orr suggests using the line: “Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable with that at this time.” And then, she says, share facts.

You could mention, for instance, that some provinces are threatening to fine those who fail to comply with public health measures. Or that authorities are asking people to shop only for essentials, and only when necessary.

You may also find it helpful to remind them of who you’re protecting by practising physical-distancing, including older adults and those with health conditions, who are among the most vulnerable, as well as health care workers who are working through the pandemic.

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While some people have encouraged shaming those who refuse to practice physical-distancing (#COVIDIDIOTS has become a trending Twitter hashtag), Ms. Orr finds this tactic harsh.

“I think we all have the best intentions,” she says. “If we inform people and give them an out, then they’re much more likely to comply.”

Give them an opportunity to change their behaviour

Give people a way to make the right decision, Ms. Orr says. For instance, if you notice your friend has been hoarding personal protective equipment, like facemasks, you can mention you’ve heard that people can donate these items, and that you’re checking around your own home to see if you have extra supplies to donate too.

“We do think about people in our community. We do think about each other," Ms. Orr says. "And I think that tendency of Canadians to think about our world as a community means we have a really good chance of getting through this together.”

Offer alternatives

Remind others that it’s difficult for you, too, to tell them you can’t see them, but suggest alternative ways of communicating, such as virtual meetings, Ottawa etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau suggests.

This allows you to maintain the relationship, and helps combat loneliness, Ms. Blais Comeau says.

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Avoid disputes on social media

If someone in your social circle shares false information about the new coronavirus through social media or e-mail, don’t engage with them online, Ms. Blais Comeau advises.

You may choose to delete or ignore their messages entirely. But if it’s someone you care about, pick up the phone and talk to them, she says.

Mention that what you have to say is difficult, but that you value them, and state what your own “personal policy” is on the matter, she suggests. For example, “my personal policy is to follow guidance of our public health authorities.”

“From the moment that we say ‘my personal policy,’ who’s gonna debate that?” Ms. Blais Comeau says.

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

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