In this time of increased anxiety and immense strains in our relationships, how is one to act when a colleague, a client, or a community member coughs?
Pandemic, telework, voluntary isolation and physical distancing are now part of our vocabulary.
Not too long ago, in a not so distant past, a sneeze or a cough could have been somewhat irritating. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is downright dangerous and anxiety-provoking.
How is one to react when a loved one, or even a colleague coughs during a phone call or a videoconference?
First, ask yourself: do I have a positive relationship of trust with this person?
If the answer is no or I am not sure:
- For a workplace relationship, entrust your concerns to your superior, the human resources department or your Employee Assistance Program, depending on the recommended course of action provided by your employer.
- In a public place, speak to the person in authority, such as the manager, making sure to do so discreetly, in private, one-on-one.
- In your personal relationships go through a “middle person” who has a positive relationship with the one you are concerned about.
If the answer is yes:
Privately and not publicly, with courtesy, use a gradual process by starting with a positive eye contact and a smile, say:
“Hi, how are you? (Add a pause.) Is everything all right?”
This approach is both direct and caring. According to my research, front-line health professionals use it, adding, “Are you sick? ”
If the other person’s answer makes you doubt their state of health, continue with:
” I care about you. What I have to say is difficult. But, if the roles were reversed, I would appreciate honesty. think it would be wise for you and even for all of us to take Health Canada’s Self Assessment. If you want we can go online and do it together”.
Based on the cougher’s response, where they live and whom they live with, decide whether you will inform another loved one, a superior or someone in authority.
If you are not quite ready to approach the one who coughs with a positive intention for the future of your relationship, predispose yourself to empathy by taking a step back for a moment and involving another person in your family, community or network.
At any time, during the traditional virus seasons, placing a “health” basket or tray at the reception or on the corner of your desk gives a subtle reminder to all of the necessary precautions of the season to avoid contamination:
- hand sanitizer,
- a box of tissue with the trash close by for efficient “blow and throw” practices, as well as
- disinfectant wipes and you could add,
- cough drops.
Finally, also contagious with exponential powers are empathy and kindness. They start with a positive eye contact and a smile. They are just as effective up close as tow meters away. Share generously.