Five social skills to learn during pandemic

Five social skills to learn during pandemic

Experts share how you can cope with the anxiety of socialising in person

It’s happening, sadly happening. After one-and-a-half years of social isolation, friends are finding it awkward to hang out, colleagues are avoiding water cooler chats, and strangers are hesitating to introduce one another.

“After being forced to practice social isolation for so long, the effort of getting ready (physically and mentally) to meet somebody in person seems a bit too taxing,” Divya Ch, a Bengaluru-based product manager told Metrolife. 

There is neither a quick-fix to this social anxiety nor should you pressurise yourself to ‘perform socially’, say the experts we spoke to. They have, however, shared some tips to help you ease into the real world. 

Go on short walks

Your first step should be about getting comfortable with the sight of people around you. “Start by running errands that you have got used to doing online. For instance, step out to buy milk from a small store that doesn’t get much crowd. Put on two masks, wear gloves, carry a sanitiser, and do these grocery runs daily till you get comfortable around people. You can also go for a walk in a park,” says Rituparna Patgiri, who teaches sociology at a university in Delhi. Avoid crowded places because that can aggravate your anxiety, she adds. 

Check-in on people 

Gone are the days when you could catch up last minute. Planning and communication are key today. “Call up people and ask if they are feeling well. If yes, would they like to meet (outside) or would they like you to drop by? Check with them if you can invite two or three people, and if one of them has come from the airport recently, tell that too,” says city-based talk therapist Shreya Giria.

Alternatively, if somebody doesn’t want to meet or requests you to keep the group small, take it positively, she urges.  

Do a mock meetup

It may help some people to do a virtual meetup before they decide to take things offline. “I have done it myself. I hung out with my friend over a cup of coffee on a Zoom call, weeks before we were supposed to meet in person. It’s a nice ice-breaker and gets you so many things to talk about when you meet in real,” says Patgiri. People who are returning to the office or joining a new company will also benefit from these online catch-ups. They can organise a happy hour with fun games, for example.  

Respect boundaries

If you are one of those who likes big, warm hugs or loves to walk hand in hand, you may want to go slow on that. City-based psychologist and “hugger” Nithya J Rao says, “You may be okay with the idea of hugging (people) in these times but they may not. So ask and proceed.” Even better, innovate. “Do jazz hands (that is, wave hands in the air), click physically-distanced photos or write notes to each other,” she suggests. 

Be awkward together 

Despite these tips, if your reunion is marked with long pauses and monosyllabic answers, then don’t beat yourself up. “Make a joke about it at the spot and be awkward together,” says Nithya. “Give yourself and give people time to adapt to this change. Empathy and kindness will go a long way (in normalising our social lives),” adds Giria.