How To Talk About Literally Anything Else
Conversation starters that don’t trigger coronavirus anxiety
There’s a spontaneity to social life in quarantine. Just a few weeks ago, before the coronavirus forced us all inside, trying to pin down a dinner with friends could sometimes feel like playing Tetris — and everyone involved knew it would be rescheduled at least twice anyway. But now, hunkered down at home, calling a friend on a whim feels normal.
There’s just one hitch: Whenever I get a friend on the line these days, the first question is nearly always, “How are you holding up?” Or, “How is quarantine treating you?” Or, “You guys ready to kill each other yet?”
Look, these are completely reasonable icebreakers right now. But they’re also exhausting. Anyone asking already knows the answer: None of us are doing amazingly well. Quarantine is not summer camp. Most of us would love to see someone beyond our partners, parents, or children.
On the one hand, now feels like an especially vital time to let the people in our lives know we’re there for them. On the other hand, as anxiety disorder specialist Catherine Belling recently explained in Time, excessively rehashing our quarantine situations and the news will only make us feel worse. “There’s no correlation between how worried you are and how at risk you are,” she said.
So, how can you stay social without triggering more anxiety? “Friendships are long-standing, reliable relationships that are positive and include cooperation and reciprocity,” says Lydia Denworth, author of Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. “So, think about what you can do to make your friends feel good (that’s the positive part) and how to show up for them from a distance (the reciprocity part). Tell them they matter to you and that you miss them.” And ask them simple, intentional questions to keep the conversation focused on things that make you both feel good during a time when feeling good is a welcome change.
Below is a list of suggestions to help you uplift, distract, and maintain some semblance of normalcy.
Concerning recent times
- What’s something that made you smile this week?