VANCOUVER -- Hand shaking, hugging and sharing food didn't used to be a big deal, but with the COVID-19 pandemic not showing signs of slowing down, many might find themselves in awkward situations where they need to set boundaries with others.

Whether it's with someone you know or a complete stranger, Amy Hanser, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's sociology department, says there are ways to tactfully manage those conversations, and she encourages people to not shy away from them.

"It's really important for people to feel that they can be honest about their own concerns and the level of risk they're willing to take," Hanser said on CTV Morning Live Wednesday.

"If you're invited to an event, I think you should feel free to express to your host … what kinds of precautions you're taking, and that you'd like to know whether this event will feel safe for you."

Hanser says people should also feel free to take whatever precautions – like wearing a mask – they feel will protect themselves and others.

"Do what you feel you should do for yourself. You may feel uncomfortable, or you can always excuse yourself from the event if you're really feeling uncomfortable," she said.

"People are likely to be understanding of any given person's fears and concerns."

Another option is to respond to invitations by expressing what you're comfortable with right away.

"I was invited to meet with somebody and when I responded to the invitation I said, 'I would be comfortable meeting in this setting,'" she said. "And that person responded very positively."

The same applies to family members, whether it means keeping a distance or even avoiding visits to stay safe, Hanser says.

"I think if people are honest about what their concerns are and why … someone may be hurt, but I'm sure they'll get over it, especially if they recognize you're not doing it because you're ill-willed, but because you have real concerns," she said. 

Even so, Hanser says it's best to have those conversations without judgement and, in some cases, it might be best to just let things go. 

"Some people have deeply internalized norms about how we interact, so it can be difficult to change those behaviours," she said. 

"If it's a stranger, I personally think we have to be thoughtful about when we're going to confront somebody … if everyone else is wearing a mask and one person isn't, it's probably not worth any kind of conflict."

Hanser says that while these situations feels unnatural right now, they likely won't last forever. 

"I think people will be happy to shed the masks, hug each other, not worry how close they're getting to each other," she said. 

"I think people will really drop these new behaviours very quickly." 

This is part of a six-minute interview with Amy Hanser. Watch the full interview in the video player above.