One way my wife and I have been making the most of the Governor's Stay-at-Home order is to work in our yard. Another way, that's a lot less dirty and infinitely more fun, is to take a walk in our neighborhood. We've noticed that we aren't the only people in our part of town to come up with that idea so that has lead to some "awkward" encounters.

The way we usually handle the situation of another person approaching our personal space while we are on our walk is to simply move off the sidewalk or cross the street. So far, that's worked perfectly for us and our neighbors. It's called respect. However, some people don't grasp that concept and need a little enhanced instruction.

That is where "REST" comes in. REST is an acronym that you can use to help politely tell a stranger that their social distancing game isn't quite as good as it needs to be.

REST stands for Reflect, Eyes, Statement, and Tact. This concept was explained in great detail by Dr. Tracy Stephenson Shaffer chair of the Department of Communications at LSU in a story published originally by WAFB television.

Here's how you'd use REST if you encounter someone who is not on the "same social distancing page" as you.

R- That stands for reflect.  Dr. Shaffer suggests that you "reflect" on where you are standing or walking. Are you in a path where it's impossible for another to get by without coming close to you? Chances are if there is a person moving toward you they have a reason. The fact that you're blocking egress just might be it.

E- That stands for eyes. You might have most of your face covered in a mask but those near you can still see your eyes. You can communicate a lot of information just by using your eyes. Based on my experience, this usually does the trick in getting the oncoming traffic to offer you a wider berth.

S- That stands for statement. Sometimes you'll have to simply let someone know that you're not comfortable with their immediate proximity.

T- That stands for tact. If you must make a statement Dr. Shaffer suggests you make that statement with a huge helping of tact. Basically, tact indicates through your words that you are sensitive to the other person's needs and situation. Using a tactful and calm approach should mitigate any uncomfortable encounters.

Dr. Shaffer also told the WAFB reporter that if you have concerns about others invading your personal space during this social distancing era it would be a good idea to rehearse what you're going to say and how you're going to say it.

That way you can speak calmly and confidently and that usually is more than enough for reasonable people to offer you the same kind of distancing respect that you're willing to offer them.

The bottom line it is all about respect. I will respect your choices if you respect mine. I think we both probably have the same anticipated outcome for this pandemic. And that's this, that it will be over soon and we will all get back to not having to think about avoiding people on the street.


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