The other day, my husband and I were invited to a small work dinner hosted at the home of his boss. It was laid back and informal, but despite that, the two of us felt something we hadn’t before.
You see, after over a year or being a bit anti-social due to the virus, we no longer knew what to do in this type of setting. Do we bring wine? Or not? Do we bring up certain types of conversation? Or not? What were we even going to talk about with these people we’ve never met?!
The whole experience was slightly unsettling, and not because of the event. But afterwards, we were so glad we did it. We settled in and found familiar territory within minutes. Plus, we felt it was a big step in coming out of our shells again.
Now, if you’re like us, and emerging from a period of isolation into the community, here are a few tips to get back out there:
1. Know That Others Are In the Same Boat
We’ve found that by addressing our feelings to others, it makes everyone more comfortable. Many people have responded to us and feel the same way in new situations. It seems that we are all out of practice in social situations.
2. Force Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone
Next, this tips is to JUST DO IT. Do the uncomfortable.
While you may have been living in a bubble for good reason, now it’s time to make small decisions to open up again (safely, of course). It’s not always easy to say yes to that invite, but it’s worth it.
3. Be a Great Guest
If you’re worried about an upcoming social event, remember a few things that make for a great guest.
First, be genuinely interested in others and listen attentively. Then, when in doubt pay compliments to others. And finally, ask questions that you truly want to know the answer to. If you do this, you’ll be not only putting the spotlight on others (and making you a bit more comfortable), but you’ll be making friends because people love to feel important and valued. These actions are a complete win-win for everyone.
*Check out these fun icebreaker questions if you’re not sure what to ask!
4. Be True to Yourself
The one really great thing about the past year is that it has forced all of us to re-evaluate the activities that we participated in. For some of us, we were part of groups and organizations that didn’t really bring us joy. It’s ok to use that in our evaluation of group settings going forward. So yes, branch out, but also keep in mind the things and people that make you happy or give you a valuable experience.
5. Cut Yourself Some Slack
And finally, it’s been a rough year. For everyone. We’re all coming out of it a little different than we were before. And we’ve all changed in different ways.
I for one, am more of an introvert than I used to be. And that’s ok. There’s no sense in pushing myself to be something I’m not at this point. I may change again as time goes along, and that’s fine too. For now, I’ll push myself to have more experiences with others, but also not beat myself up for wanting more time alone.
I hope these tips were helpful if you’re struggling with a newfound social anxiety.
I know it’s not just me. I’ve seen siblings, relatives, and friends change over the last year and form much different opinions about the world we live in. My simple hope is that by getting out there and interacting more, we all find more open mindedness and compassion in ourselves and others. In my opinion, that’s the true way forward.
“Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”