Written by Val Holden – Relationship and Family Counsellor
We don’t always share the same beliefs as our family members. In fact, we may have very different opinions about all sorts of things, and that’s OK – most of the time.
There are some subjects we know to avoid at the dinner table if we want to keep the peace. For some families, that might include issues related to COVID-19, like mask mandates and vaccinations.
Over the last two years, we’ve been inundated with information about COVID-19, and we’ve all formed opinions and beliefs as a result.
We hope this advice helps you communicate effectively and maintain healthy relationships if you’re butting heads with loved ones over COVID-19.
Have patience and understanding
People across the world have had their lives turned upside-down by COVID-19 in many ways, including financially, emotionally, and psychologically.
COVID has created an element of fear and brought about some unusual behaviours for some of us. Remember how quickly toilet paper flew off our shelves at the first sign of lockdown?!
It’s helpful to remember that circumstances are unusual right now and we all need to have some extra patience and understanding for your each other’s behaviour. Chances are there’s some fear and uncertainty driving it.
Respect is key in any relationship. This includes respecting another’s right to their point of view, beliefs, and feelings.
Let them know you love them whether you agree with them or not, and make sure they understand it’s important to you that the relationship continues (if this is what you want).
As frustrating as it can be to bite your tongue, it’s not up to you to make everyone agree with your beliefs.
Speak with kindness
Similarly, it’s important to be kind – even when you’re feeling frustrated. The last thing you want is to speak down to your family members or come across as condescending or arrogant. Don’t put them down or make them feel inferior for their beliefs.
If you feel the conversation is escalating from a discussion to an argument, you can try to keep things calm by:
- Maintaining a calm tone
- Relaxing your posture and body language
- Taking a deep breath
- Stating you don’t want to argue and asking to change the subject.
It can also help to validate their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. For example, you might say: “I can see this is really important to you.” This can help them feel heard and respected.
Put the topic on pause
It’s OK to assert boundaries and put a topic on pause if it’s only causing friction.
Ask your family member if you can talk about it another time. Or agree to disagree, keep the topic off the table entirely and focus on all the positive things in your relationship instead.
It can even help to have some space from the relationship if you need to. This can give both of you some time to calm down and separate your loved one from their opinion before you see each other again.
Seek help for effective communication
Counselling can be a great option for people who struggle to communicate or need support repairing a relationship. It provides a neutral, non-threatening space to explore your feelings and work together on a solution.
It’s not about who’s right or wrong; it’s about communicating effectively and maintaining a healthy, respectful relationship.
A lot of the time, relationships can be stronger after a rift – especially when both people are open and want to rebuild the relationship.
You can learn more about our relationship counselling here, or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.
Another RAQ mental health professional shares their advice for managing your mental health during COVID-19 in this article.
Val has more than 20 years’ experience in management of counselling services and delivery of direct client practice in the not-for-profit industry.