Two years of social isolation has put a significant dent in our ability to interact with other humans in person. If you can’t remember what day it is or whether you applied deodorant, but you definitely remember snapping at the kid staffing the drive-through window, you’ve gone feral and aren’t fit for release back into polite society.
Clearly, a refresher on good manners is in order. Here’s how to relearn social skills after the pandemic.
Remember That It’s Not Just You
First, cut yourself some slack! It’s not just you feeling awkward and anxious.
Everyone is feeling a little weird right now, as we’re trying to transition back to something resembling normalcy in the “before times.”
Humans are hard-wired to be social animals. When deprived of social contact, people can feel angry, irritable, depressed, or exhausted.
Understanding that everyone is having a tough time right now will help you soften up and show some kindness to others. People you treat with compassion will likely return the favor.
This is especially important when you are interacting with essential workers who’ve been on the front lines all along. Additionally, many people in the hospitality industry not only lost jobs but were treated horrendously by customers when they came back to work.
Now would be a good time to review the basics of being a good bar patron or relearning how to maintain your patience while waiting in line at the pharmacy.
Take Baby Steps
It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to go straight from working alone at home, dressed in basketball shorts and flip-flops, to attending a big party or wedding. It’s okay to start slowly.
Dr. Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and director of the social interaction lab at the University of California at Berkeley, provided The New York Times with several suggestions of small steps that you can take to ease back into a wider social life.
A few of these tips include meeting up to share a meal with someone (outside, if it makes you feel better), calling or texting someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, or starting a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store.
Acknowledge the Awkwardness
You stick out your hand for a shake, but they come in for a hug, or you go in for a fist bump, and they recoil. Awkward scenarios, such as making eye contact or not knowing what to say, are going to happen.
One way to handle the social awkwardness of being in different comfort social zones is simply to acknowledge how weird it feels. Take the initiative to explain ahead of time where you are on the COVID social skills recovery spectrum and ask for understanding.
It’s a changed world out there. These tips on how to relearn social skills after the pandemic should help you navigate awkward moments as we all try to figure out a new normal.