Our Social Skills Are A Bit Rusty After A Year of Quarantining

social skills

Today’s big idea is that our social skills have atrophied over the last year. Just like any muscle that gets weaker when you don’t use it. We’re all rusty and awkward when it comes to talking with other people. At the same time, we’re STARVED for these social interactions. But we’ve gotten used to not having them. So if you leave your house and go to an outdoor gathering of people, well, you  might just feel like you have to take a nap afterward.

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If you’re really sensitive to things in your environment, or a super empathic person, all that socializing might trip your nervous system. Which isn’t used to that much sustained interaction. (Note to listeners-I count myself among the super sensitive to the environment people. So I’m speaking to myself here, too.)

There is just a ton of difference in the energy and information exchange that happens in person versus what happens in the modes of socializing we’ve been using so much over the last year. Like group texts and Zoom calls. In person, you have to factor in what’s going on in the environment. The body language of the person you’re talking to and–whether you are attuned to it or not–the energy that they’re giving off. It’s like going from eating a very bland diet to having a bonanza of different flavors, textures, and foods in one meal. You’re going to have a lot more to experience and digest in real-life interactions. 

Not only are our social skills rusty, but also the world has changed

Maybe you were a hugger before, but now hugging feels way, way too close. That’s going to make for a potentially awkward moment as you aren’t sure how to greet the other person. Heck, it’s hard to even know how close to stand to someone. Huddling together is something we once didn’t think twice about. Now if we get with an arm’s distance of someone else it’s like looking at your pores in one of those magnifying mirrors. It can be a little scary, ha ha. 

So my tip today aren’t any specific social skills. It’s simply this:

To acknowledge that our interactions are going to be awkward for a while. And to extend ourselves and the people that we talk to some grace. Actually, a whole lot of grace. I can practically guarantee that either you’ll say or do something weird or the other person will. And when that happens, don’t think, oh I’m such a dummy! Or, what the heck is wrong with that person? In that moment your work is to remember that we’re all a little–or a lot–socially clumsy right now. That will help you not take it personally, beat yourself up, or judge the other person. 

I know this sounds really simple, and it is–when you’re thinking about it as a hypothetical. But when you’re in the throes of a conversation, or feeling the confusion or the shame after the interaction is through, it can be really hard to steer your thoughts away from WTF?? And toward remembering to make an allowance for everyone involved, yourself included. 

An easy way to remind yourself is to say outloud “we’re all a little awkward right now.” That should help you remember that now is not the time to expect skillful interaction. Just like you can’t get up off the couch after a winter of bingeing Bridgerton and expect to run a marathon. Or heck, even a mile. It’s going to take us some time to figure out how to be easy and gracious with one another. And that is OK. 

I just want to end with a note that while the vaccine is being distributed and cases are down, we are not out of the Covid woods yet

With so many businesses opening back up and folks who aren’t fully vaccinated. (And you definitely can still get a bad case of covid between your first and second shot) We really still need to be careful and thoughtful about our safety and the safety of others, and it’s very reasonable to expect that cases will rise again. Please keep wearing your mask and washing your hands and staying distant whenever possible, even as you start to re-emerge. 

Come back tomorrow!

When I’m interviewing Elysha Lenkin, a personal fashion stylist with a holistic bent, on how our re-remergence clothing choices can help us accept who and where we are–and have fun and feel good while we do it. 


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