Being approached by a stranger trying to talk to me is generally a nightmare, but the pandemic has made it even worse. It’s like, read the room, buddy. Talking to strangers isn’t cool anymore. I don’t know if you’re sick, you don’t know if I’m sick, et cetera. And if they’re not wearing a mask? Well now what the hell am I supposed to do? I can imagine few potential scenarios where approaching someone while maskless is justified, but it could happen. How you respond is up to you, but there are some options.
The main thing to consider about people who aren’t wearing masks is that you don’t owe them anything. I mean, treat people with dignity and respect, but you have every right to put your own health first. If someone wants to talk to you while maskless and you feel uncomfortable, just say so. Move six feet away and ask them to put a mask on. There’s a decent enough chance that the person who wants to talk to you doesn’t even realize they don’t have their mask on, particularly if you’re outdoors.
If they don’t put on a mask after you ask, you have some more choices. Standing six feet apart should keep you safe, and it’s really not that hard to do. Stating that you’d like to keep your distance is a pretty reasonable thing to do. Regardless, you’re still within your right to end the interaction there if you wish.
I get that asserting yourself in these contexts can be challenging –– I’ve given out my number to people who’ve asked that I truly never wanted to see again in my life simply because I was too nervous to say no. But with coronavirus safety an issue, you can feel emboldened by the need to protect the greater good. Who cares about hurting someone’s feelings when your family’s health is at risk?
This is definitely a time to be thinking about people other than ourselves, and ultimately, shutting down interactions with people who don’t wear masks is actually a way of doing that. Stand up for yourself and others and be honest that you don’t want to talk to someone not wearing a mask. It’s not that hard. I believe in you.