Social isolation was not easy at first. We weren’t prepared for it. Now, one year later, we’ve grown accustomed to a lack of physical human interaction.
I have heard from people all over the world, distressed that they are unable to meet people every day, to interact and to have mundane conversations. But NOW I am hearing even stranger – and scarier – messages. Many have come to prefer a life with limited interactions. How do we venture back to in-person social interactions?
How to Transition Back to Face-to-Face Social Interactions
Introverts and extroverts alike are now expressing trepidation at transitioning back to ‘normal’ social interactions. I believe that returning to socializing, especially indoors, will lead to social anxiety for many people. Those of us living in colder climates, with a more limited outdoor social exposure, may find it even harder.
Transitioning Back to Social Interactions is Not Going to be Easy
In our herculean effort to save ourselves and loved ones from death, we have given up our freedoms and activities and put our lives on hold. This has not come without cost. In an effort just to survive, we have lost subtle nuances including reading the room to interpret energy, facial expressions, body language and tone.
Social interactions are going to be weird at first as we try to unlearn a skill we have come to master – being socially distanced aficionados. No longer can we hide behind screens, or turn off a screen when we lost interest. How do we strike up a conversation or fein interest without looking awkward – both mentally and physically?
It’s Time to Practice Social Interaction Skills
As we transition back to ‘normal’ life, it is time to remember and refresh the social skills we have been learning since childhood. It seems funny that we need to learn the skill of communicating again. Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten?
It may feel like a hassle, or a task, but it is now time to transition back to physical interactions. It may feel natural at times, and so awkward at others, but at least all of us are in the same boat.
Let’s Sharpen our Rusty Social Skills
It’s time to address our fears and build our social resiliency again
1. Take a gradual approach – ease back into socializing slowly and keep your expectations low. Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 each day. The writing is on the wall, we will be returning to “normalcy” soon. But for many, returning to previous activities will feel daunting. If 5 activities in a month feels too much, do only 2. Make sure it is enjoyable.
2. Build in a reward system – Just as you might opt for a new haircut or get a manicure after losing 5 pounds, give yourself a reward for each time you call or walk with a friend.
3. Treat yourself and others with kindness and respect – All of us have a different threshold of comfort. Practice modifying your tone and energy to come across as calm, quiet, polite, lighthearted, relaxed, chatty, non-confrontational, cautious, respectful, thoughtful, detached, curious, dulcet, soothing, earnest, light, breezy, gentle.
Each of us will need to prepare our return to society based on what feels comfortable. What is ‘right’ for your friend may not hold true for you. That is fine and, well, human. What we all share, however, is the need for kindness, willingness and determination to pull out of this pandemic better than before.
Do This At Home
About Caroline Maguire
Caroline Maguire, M. Ed., earned her undergraduate degree at Trinity College and her Masters of Education and Early Childhood Development at Lesley University with a specialization in social emotional learning (SEL).
Caroline is the author of the award winning book, Why Will No One Play With Me?, a playbook of foolproof scripts on how to build social skills.
She created a comprehensive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training methodology for adults, parents, clinicians and academic professionals. She is the founder and director of The Fundamentals of ADHD Coaching for Families training curriculum at ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) – the only Coach Training program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Ms. Maguire is a sought-after lecturer and workshop facilitator on various topics related to social, emotional and behavioral learning. She is a permanent columnist on social skills in CHADD’s Attention Magazine, a favored contributor to U.S. News & World Report, Mind Body Green, Salon, Huffington Post, Today Parenting, ADDitude and WebMD.
Download her free video “How to Tell a Tighter Story,” for advice on how to curb rambling.