A Helpful Strategy for Reducing Re-Entry Awkwardness


Today’s big idea is that when it comes to social norms, we are off the map. Only the oldest among us have lived through as pervasive a global crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic. Things like World War 2, or the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918. For the most part, we’re all noobs– the gaming term for newbies that I learned via my 11 year old–at how to recuperate from such a time of turbulence. And how to handle re-entry awkwardness for ourselves and other people during such a transitional time. 

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On top of that, we have all lived through circumstances that have churned up some very big emotions

Fear, anger, doubt, desperation. No person gets through life without experiencing these feelings, but now so very many of us are experiencing them at the same time. The vast majority of people just don’t have the desire or the skills to sit with those kinds of emotions and process them…so they tend to seep out through behavior.

And finally, many people are just straight up exhausted. Which means they may be moving slowly, or not at all. Or it can appear like their reflexes are dulled or synapses not fully firing.

Some things I’ve noticed that remind me that we’re all a little off are really aggressive driving. People getting pissed off when things don’t work the way they used to. Colleagues being either much more or much less responsive than they used to be. People drinking more than they used to. And just a lot of awkwardness all around. 

Now’s a GREAT time to remind yourself that we’re all a little bit like unstable atoms that are missing an electron

And looking to either unload an electron on to someone or take one from someone else. We’re not behaving like we typically do when things are basically OK. 

And that unstable atom metaphor ties into my suggestion for how to navigate the unstable social environment

A strategy that really helps you navigate this awkwardness is to think like a scientist and make it your mission to observe your surroundings and your fellow humans as objectively as possible. 

Specifically, it’s helpful to approach your fellow human beings right now as if you were an anthropologist.

The American Association of Anthropology says that the science of anthropology: “seeks to understand humankind, and considers how people’s behaviors change over time.”

Seeking to understand your fellow humans by observing their behaviors is how you don’t get sucked in to the wacky energy that a lot of people are giving off right about now. Or take their behaviors personally. 

Because, if people acting bizarrely or rudely or recklessly or listlessly are going to knock you off your emotional center, you are going to get whipsawed right about now. Because we are not normal.

For example, if you see someone driving 40 miles an hour down your residential street and you just note it, as part of your mental research on what it’s like to be a human in 2021, and that helps you not get worked up about what that person is doing. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to make it your mission for the next 24 hours to simply observe your fellow humans. And any time you witness or experience something that seems off to you, to add it to your list of ways the pandemic has affected human behavior. Being able to observe objectively requires you to pay attention and to be willing to be curious about other people instead of jumping to conclusions or judgments. It’s basically mindfulness in action. And not only will it likely show you something unexpected that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, but it refreshes your own consciousness. This way you are better equipped to process whatever feelings you might be experiencing during this weird time. 

Today’s episode also ties in with episodes 490 and 491, which are coming up later this week. They are  about what to keep in mind before you judge someone else, and what to do when someone does something you don’t like. So be sure to keep listening or to come back for those!

And tomorrow I’m interviewing Fast Company journalist Gwen Moran for her insights on how to navigate the new normal at work. Gwen is a super smart cookie, and I’m excited to hear her insights. So,  I hope you’ll come back for them. 


Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

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