I grabbed a glass of wine with a friend of mine the other day. It was one of the first times we sat down together in more than a year. It was, honestly, amazing to see her and have the opportunity to catch up. Yet, the conversation was awkward, which was surprising.
Prior to COVID, we’d talk over each other because we had so much to say. Now? The conversation was like Double Dutch jump rope – it was hard to assess when I could hop in and find a rhythm to fall into.
When the waitress came by and asked us if we wanted another round, we both said “no,” a clear sign to me that she wasn’t feeling “it” either.
That “it” was social skills.
On my drive back home that night, I processed the interaction. I came to the conclusion quickly that social skills are, indeed, perishable and it was going to take some work to fall back into an easy-going, let’s talk about nothing and everything in-person conversation.
I wanted to offer this experience to you, too, as you prepare to head back to the office.
While I know we’ve worked with our colleagues during COVID, there’s a difference between how we engage with others virtually vs. how we engage with those we see every day. Heads up – it’s going to be weird for many of us as we get used to coexisting with new faces and those old, familiar ones.
Here’s some quick guidance to support you through the process:
- Recognize that You’re Not Starting from Zero. Yet, you’re also not picking up where you left off. Be open to where you are on the journey and don’t force things that aren’t quite there yet.
- Don’t Hide from the Discomfort. It might feel easier or safer to avoid in-person conversations, but that won’t help you rebuild the skills or the relationships. We need people and people need us. Deal with the discomfort by baby-stepping your way into small talk.
- Be Inclusive. It’ll be easier to reconnect with those who you worked with pre-pandemic. Remember, though, your group might have people who joined the team this past year. Don’t forget to include them in the conversation. These are the folks who need to be engaged and feel like they’re a welcomed part of the team.
I’ll end by sharing that after my drive, I reached out to my friend and came clean – I was honest about missing her, loving to see her, but admitted I was a bit rusty in regard to my social skills. She was relieved because she felt the exact same way. We agreed to meet up again soon so we could power through the awkwardness to get back to richness of our relationships.
Best of luck to you!
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