Q: How should you react when a friend kicks you out of your shared quarantine pod?
A: In any sort of delicate situation like this one, where there is the potential for hurt feelings, I recommend taking some time to process the information in a less-emotional frame of mind. Even the most levelheaded people tend to feel judged, shamed or rejected when they are consigned to an out-group.
All of us are attempting to navigate the new reality of COVID-19, and we are doing our best to balance the risks to our physical health with our emotional health. Each of us might need to make different choices from other people in our communities or families.
Taking several hours, or even a day, to get some distance from any negative feelings you might have is definitely the right first step. Once you have some space, try asking yourself why you are no longer in your friends' bubble. Generate a few possibilities on your own before re-engaging with the person who informed you that you will no longer be in the same quarantine pod.
When you talk to your former podmate, lead with empathy and compassion, then follow with curiosity. For example, you could start with something like, "This must have been a hard decision." Then gently ask why the person asked (or told) you to leave the pod. Try using language that is less personal and more open-ended, such as, "I'm curious, what led you to this point?" The reason might make sense once you have heard it in a calm moment.
BEN MICHAELIS, psychologist and author of "Your Next Big Thing: Finding Your Passion"
A: Initially you might feel hurt or rejected, and let yourself feel those feelings — they are valid — but also don't jump to conclusions about what this means about you and your friendship. Call on the phone so that communication is clear — texting and e-mail can leave unanswered questions — and ask how your friend reached this decision.
Overall, your goal for handling this situation is to engage in mutuality — considering the other person's needs alongside your own. You might be surprised by what you hear. Perhaps an extenuating circumstance is motivating it, such as an older family member moving in or your friend deciding to isolate because of stress over the rise in COVID-19 cases.
On the other hand, your friend might share that you are not being careful enough and they don't want to be around you right now. This can be hard to hear, and it's OK to say that you're hurt, but restrain yourself from sharing judgments about the other person. These are individual decisions based on what makes each person comfortable — or uncomfortable, as the case may be.
As you search for a new quarantine pod, have an open conversation at the start about one another's boundaries and make sure you can accept those limits before moving forward. This way, down the road, the conversation about a pod breakup will be easier.
MARISA G. FRANCO, psychologist and friendship expert