Your Household Doesn't Agree On Lockdown Rules. Now What?

Whether it's friends, family members or your partner, it's not uncommon to disagree.

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Over the past few weeks, the lockdown guidelines have slowly changed for people in England, after some initial confusion.

People would be forgiven for being a little hazy when it comes to knowing exactly what they can and can’t do. Where once the rules were simple – “stay at home as much as possible” – now, things are less straightforward.

You could argue people are interpreting the guidelines differently, or you might say some are brazenly flouting them. Either way, what happens when you’re living in a household where you don’t agree with what other people are doing?

It’s a challenge faced by thousands up and down the country. You want to keep the peace in your home – so, what can you do?

Don’t ignore it, have a chat

Firstly, it’s worth sitting down with the person and having a casual chat, says Julia Esteve Boyd, known as The Etiquette Consultant. You don’t want people to feel uncomfortable – or do anything to cause offence – but you should make your voice heard. “This situation is unprecedented and people react in different ways – from one extreme to another and everything in between,” she says.

Among her clients, she’s seeing a “huge amount of anxiety and uncertainty” while others have “little concern at all”. It’s this divide that makes it hard for those who live under the same roof.

While there’s no golden rule to approaching this subject, most people respond well to a direct approach, says Esteve Boyd. “Tell them that you don’t feel the same and that you want to set some boundaries that you can both respect,” she advises.

Pick your time wisely

Professor Mike Berry, a clinical forensic psychologist, says you shouldn’t drop the conversation on them at an inconvenient time. ”Don’t do it in a heated discussion or when the person is tired,” he says.

“It might be worth doing it when the issue is being discussed on the news, for example. Or in the presence of their girlfriend, boyfriend or someone else.” They may be more open to listening to your point of view if they’re in the right headspace.

Discuss solutions, not just the problem

Explain your concerns, whatever they may be, and how it’s affecting you. And work together on a compromise. For example, if they’re mixing households but you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you could discuss what measures could be taken when they arrive home.

“If you have a flatmate who has respect for you – no matter the differing opinions – then hopefully you can come to a mutual understanding,” Esteve Boyd adds.

Ponomariova_Maria via Getty Images

Generally, people don’t respond too well to being given orders, so avoid this. Esteve Boyd suggests humour can work in a situation like this: “Joking about some new sanitising rules that you are imposing at home may suffice.”

And Berry says it’s better to speak to them on a personal level, rather than referring to the general population – i.e. tell them how it is making you feel and affecting you, rather than dishing out details on national data.

Be compassionate

It’s important to remember the person may be interpreting the rules differently because they’re struggling to deal with the situation. “It could be that they need some support to encourage them through it – so perhaps compassion is the answer,” adds the etiquette expert.

In some parts of the UK, especially more deprived areas, young people have been struggling to stay indoors due to overcrowded conditions at home. Youth charity Connect Stars spoke to 130 people aged between 13 and 24 across the London borough of Brent who were not adhering to social distancing rules. One young person told volunteers they were “just looking for an escape from my family”.

Others may struggle with the thought of going outside after lockdown – even though restrictions have been eased – and prefer to stay indoors as much as possible.

Focus on what you can control

There may be a situation where the person you live with doesn’t listen to your concerns. If so, there’s little you can do. While you could report them to the authorities, says Boyd, it’s likely you’ll burn bridges in the process. Perhaps not the best solution for you and your mate.

It’s worth focusing on your own boundaries, what you can control, and how you are choosing to abide by the guidelines. If you’re worried about going outside, for example, but your flatmate is not, you could be as sanitary as you can when sharing anything in the home. You might want to rewash plates and cutlery before using them, even if they’ve been put away clean in the cupboards.

Accept that people will act differently during these times, and try to keep that line of communication open with them so the relationship doesn’t turn sour.

We’re all muddling through the best we can, so it’s time to let go of judgment and focus on the small things that will help you get through each day.