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  • Rana Good

The New COVID Courtesies on the Road

A few rules of engagement during these unusual times.

Navigating the world during a pandemic hasn’t just drastically raised our health awareness, it also has (or should have) made us think more about our personal interactions. In the past, we rarely thought twice about sharing public spaces or social gatherings. But now, a year into COVID-19, disagreements over how to best follow protocols still exist.

As business travel slowly picks up, etiquette and common courtesies become more important than ever, especially in our dealings with strangers. We spoke to etiquette expert Elaine Swann about areas of conflict, and also how to navigate and strengthen personal relationships during this isolated time.

Common Courtesies During COVID-19

“COVID has caused us to think deeply about how our behavior affects others,” Swann said. “It’s made us look at how people make choices based on societal norms and guidelines.”

People generally have become more concerned with how to engage with others in work personal settings. Swann emphasizes three core values — respect, honesty and consideration. In other words , respect each other’s choices regardless of how we regard them..

“In some instances, we just have to respect the fact that something is someone’s decision and leave it alone,” said Swann. “That’s the way to preserve your relationship.”

However, if these choices differ greatly from yours and pose a health risk, you can decide how, or if you spend time with others. Keeping a distance, well beyond six feet, might not maintain a friendship but it likely will preserve your well-being.


What happens during interactions in which you might not have a say? For example, you’re seated next to someone on public transportation or a ridesharing service who removes their mask entirely? Swann suggests rather than deliver a stern lecture on protocols, mention that you want to protect them. “I would say to the person, ‘I noticed you took your mask off but I want to make sure to do everything to protect you,’” said Swann. “It might be a good idea to leave it on while you’re sitting next to me.” This motivates the person to keep themselves safe while following follow guidelines. You can make it their decision rather than forcing an argument with them.

Pandemic Disagreements

Familial ties and friendships have been tested during the last year. Swann said one way to help keep relationships intact is to sometimes taking a step back and choose when or if to interact. For example, if someone in your circle vehemently opposes the COVID-19 vaccine, you can adjust accordingly.

“If you have a friend that gets sloppy drunk every time you go out and insists on driving home, you will make arrangements to not get into a car with them,” Swann said. “If you know a person who chooses not to get vaccinated and it’s vital to your well-being, then make your modifications on how you interact with this person.”

Keeping in Touch

Social distancing also means that relatives and friends sometimes don’t get to see much of each other. But there are some thoughtful ways to stay in touch and maintain relationships, especially in non-digital forms. “We are all really Zoom-fatigued,” said Swann.

She instead recommends hand-written notes or cards. Remember those? Or if you’re not a writer, simply pick up the phone. “We text often but we don’t often hear a person’s voice,” Swann said. “Our voices reflect tone and feelings, and have greater impact than a message.”

If you want to take it up a notch, Swann recommends sending a care package. Receiving items like a robe and slippers, or wine and chocolates or bath goods (or all of that!) lets someone know you really care. Small but thoughtful actions can make a big difference in the balance of someone's day!

Have advice to share on what your "new normal" is, one year into the pandemic? Share in the comments below!