Help! I'm COVID Livid!


The Armchair Psychologist has all the answers you need!

Help! I'm COVID Livid!

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

My new partner of four months and I live apart, and we both live by ourselves. He has been refusing to see me face to face for the last 2-3 weeks blaming COVID-19. We have both been diligently practising social distancing and working from home. I really don't see why we can't see each other face to face as we are not high-risk. It is not about sex. I miss human contact, simple things like a hug and talking face to face with someone. I should mention we both drive and live 15 minutes apart. Is his COVID-blocking making sense or is he busy with someone else?


Dear COVID-blocked,

We live in strange times. The pandemic is far more serious than many people initially wanted to believe. I'm sorry you feel alone and neglected. Many of my NYC friends who are couples are riding out the quarantine together as a unit by cohabitating. I, myself, am quarantined with my boyfriend, and we are of course driving each other crazy adjusting to this new life.

However, you and your bf don't live together so this is very tricky, as you don't want to force a move-in since it's a fairly new relationship. His level of anxiety is more heightened than yours, and it is important to respect his boundaries and listen to his needs.

This great article explores the dilemma of being quarantined away from a partner. In it, Dr. Peter Meacher, Chief Medical Officer at Callen-Lorde, points out that he "discourages travel between homes unless the journey involves not interacting with anybody or touching anything and you don't live in a state that is under lockdown." The article also recommends treating your relationship like a long-distance relationship and getting creative with video chats and video sex, etc. Psychotherapist Dulcinea PitagoraIt's is also quoted in the article stating, "It's a good idea to discuss what different types of interactions partners want to have and when." In regards to your infidelity suspicions, does the BF have a history of cheating? If you're feeling especially blue, discuss this with a qualified therapist. I hope you find solace in these recommendations and get creative to unlock your COVID-block!

- The Armchair Psychologist

Help! I'm Getting Wined And Swined!

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

How do I stick to my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle when I go home to my family of meat eaters? I'm a liberal and usually live in big cities, but my family are all a super conservative Republicans who live in Mississippi. I think my mom somehow believes I don't like them because we have different lifestyles. She got super upset when I tried to have conversations about wanting to eat vegetarian, like angry and almost crying, because she thought I was scolding the family and criticizing them for how they eat. The truth is, I wasn't. I just wanted to have a discussion, since I like to make people consider another point of view, and it's hard to get them to do that sometimes.


Dear Vegan4Life,

I'm sorry that you're experiencing such distress on home visits to your family. It's understandable you'd feel hurt over your mother's perception of you, and vice versa, however, misunderstood it may be. It's very tricky to navigate a balance in this when the subject is so deeply personal. This is why there are entire sciences devoted to the study of the psychology of eating meat and vegetarianism. Vegans and vegetarians are a minority population in the USA (3% Vegan, 5-8% Vegetarian) and many experience the difficulties you have experienced in navigating a majority-omnivorous society. The tension between yourself and your mom could possibly be rooted in underlying issues you might resolve best with a qualified therapist. However, while it's true you may not agree on politics, as most vegan/vegetarians are indeed liberal and progressive, you might be able to find a middle ground on the etiquette of the dinner hour.

First, it's important you keep in mind that being a vegan or vegetarian is a personal choice (unless you have a disease or an allergy). This is why you can't impose your pork-free casserole unto your mom/family, and it's understandable she'd find it upsetting and hurtful, as she might take great pride in her "special Christmas casserole." Suddenly, she has to choose between pleasing you and the rest of the family? Steven Petrow, the manners columnist for the Washington Post, coins it perfectly when he writes "You're a guest, not a customer." Keep in mind that meals with your family are about quality time and togetherness rather than the actual meal.

When I was a vegan (only for a few, clear-skin and sans-red-wine months), I remember being so dedicated to scrutinizing menus that I became anal to an extreme and would miss out on the fun conversations around me and quality time with friends. The proper dinner etiquette, according to Emily's Post Institute, a blog dedicated to the rules of etiquette, is that you inform the host of your restrictions and it's up to them if they'd like to comply or not. Because this is your close family, it is not a bad idea to ask if you can bring/make your own food. This might also open up opportunities to share your motivations for going vegan/vegetarian in a very casual way without risking coming off as judgmental. You could even suggest watching the revolutionary "Food.inc" together based on its popularity alone and low-key get the family to enjoy a new point of view in regards to meat production in America. Most importantly, remember that your mom loves you and only wants the best for you so don't pork with her pork!

- The Armchair Psychologist

4 Min Read

Tips To Help Women Move Beyond #OKBoomer at Work

When I first heard #OKBoomer, I cringed and thought — here we go again.

Yet another round of generation bashing, this time Millennials against Baby Boomers. This new social media conflict will not help workplace dynamics.

Throughout my career, I've heard countless rants about long-established workplace norms that younger generations perceive as overly repressive rules that subvert identity, familial obligations, civility, and respect for the environment.

I get it. I remember how I felt early in my career being told that I couldn't wear pants, had to wear pantyhose (even in 90-degree weather) and that I wasn't allowed to speak to executives. Seriously?

Gen X here to the rescue.

Sandwiched between the much larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, Gen Xers are often overlooked. Please allow me to build a bridge to the opportunity ahead.

For me, the generation challenge is a communications opportunity. And the stakes are high, because we spend about 70% of our day communicating. Within that timeframe, we spend about 45% listening, 30% speaking, 16% reading, and 9% writing.

By 2030, most Baby Boomers will have retired, and approximately 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials. That gives us about a decade to continue working together to create a work environment that is better for women, people of color, and the younger generations.

As a multigenerational workplace scholar, I'm often asked, what is a generation, and why do they matter?

Karl Mannheim, the founder of sociology, concluded that key historical events significantly impact people during their youth. Essentially, when you were born and what was happening where you lived during your formative childhood years, help define what is important to you and help set your value system.

Think of it this way, if the games you played growing up allowed you to advance to the next level regardless of if it took one attempt or fifty, you might have a different perspective on what mastering a task looks like than someone who didn't.

If technology has almost always allowed you to be more efficient, you may seek to perform a job as quickly as possible, so that you are being productive, not because you are looking for a short cut.

If the answer to any question was always a Google search away, you might get frustrated when your questions go unanswered and are told to figure it out.

These examples begin to explain why Baby Boomers and Millennials value different things. However, there are always going to be outliers. I study generational-related values, because they frame how we show up and what we expect when we come to work.

In my recent study of 1,400 Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z women, I examined strategies for communicating. I was particularly interested in interpersonal communications — the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages. It turns about that the most essential characteristics by generation were active listening (paying attention to others), collaboration (teamwork), and empathy (showing understanding for others).

Baby Boomers believe they are best at "paying attention to others."

Given our hectic schedules at work, you may be tempted to multitask while speaking or try to get by gleaning the gist of a conversation in a conference call while working on a report at the same time. But this isn't deeply effective. Active listening is crucial because being highly engaged in a conversation helps everyone involved have clarity and alignment on exchange. It also helps build rapport and trust between participants.

Some practical ways to demonstrate active listening include:

  • Asking specific questions or paraphrasing what you've heard
  • Using non-verbal cues such as making eye contact and not looking at your device
  • Maintain body language that shows you are interested and the speaker has your full attention

Gen X believes they are best at "working with others."

Lots of us have heard the expression, "There's no 'I' in a team." Teams that collaborate well have a better chance for sustained and repeatable success.

Effective ways to demonstrate collaboration are:

  • Establishing clear goals and expectations for the team
  • Being accountable for the team and yourself
  • Providing and being open to feedback

Both Millennials and Gen Z believe they are most effective at "showing understanding for others."

The workplace is more diverse than ever before. Some organizations may have a Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer, Millennial, and a Gen Zer, all working alongside each other. By showing empathy, we can demonstrate that we appreciate and respect each other's perspectives and are open to understanding how they feel about a situation, idea, or concept.

Effective ways to demonstrate empathy are:

  • Listening without judging or forming an opinion
  • Being slow to criticize
  • Acknowledging the other person's feelings as valid for them

So, instead of dismissing a generation with a hashtag, let try to open a dialogue. For example, next time you are working a Baby Boomers demonstrate that you are actively listening to what they are saying. Try sending a summary email about your deliverables on an assignment Gen Xers to highlight your collaborative skills. And take time to let Millennials and Gen Z know that you appreciate and understand their point of view.

If you'd like to hear more on this subject, you can listen to my recent Ted Talk here: