As the world begins to pull out of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us are feeling a great sense of hope.
With vaccination rates rising, annual events like the Hope Hustle and Prom returning, and social distancing restrictions weakening, many of us finally feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For some, however, the prospect of a post-pandemic life brings with it a creeping feeling of dread. After thousands of hours spent alone in the comfort of our own homes waiting out consecutive quarantines, many of us are now shuddering at the thought of having to socialize with others again.
But no matter how jittery you feel about interacting with your fellow students, colleagues, or coworkers after the pandemic, here’s three pieces of advice that might help you get your social life back on track.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
If you’re having difficulty making conversation with others after months of isolation, consider doing some minor preparation before interactions.
This prep-work doesn’t have to be anything major. Simply spend a few minutes writing down a list of topics you’re interested in and could potentially speak with someone about. Also, you might want to jot down any interesting stories or factoids about yourself that could be deployed in response to common questions like “What do you do in your free time?” Are you a big fan of rock climbing or Buddhist meditation, for example?
The idea here is to have a number of different things you feel comfortable speaking about off the cuff–a few “slam dunk” topics you can steer the conversation towards if things go south. However, you probably won’t want to memorize any specific lines, as doing so might come off as robotic and unnatural. Just make sure you’re able to speak freely about a few select things you find interesting.
Preparation is usually the best curve for nervousness. There’s no shame in doing a little work beforehand to make sure an interaction goes smoothly.
2. Stay in the Present and Lose the Negative Filters
Take a moment to consider how you view your interactions with others. Many people who experience anxiety in social situations frame conversations as performances in which they must impress the other person with their wit and humor. Alternatively, some might view their social acuity negatively because of a history of embarrassing themselves in front of others.
These mindsets can be damaging when trying to connect with our peers. In adopting them, we presuppose that the people we speak with will hold us to inordinately high standards. As a result, we constantly fret about how our conversation partner perceived our response to their question, and whether or not it will hurt our relationship with them. Overanalysis takes us out of the moment, making it impossible to truly listen to the other person’s words.
Instead, we should try to view conversation as a way of finding out what makes another person tick. A means of gaining deep connection. This process is messy. Yes, there will be filler “um’s” and “uh’s.” But recognize that your conversation partner is probably just as nervous as you.
3. Get Involved
Initiating an interaction with a stranger can feel like a daunting task, especially when you don’t seem to have anything to connect with them over. You may fear your attempts at conversation will be rebuked with a suspicious glare, the other person wondering, “Who is this person, and what do they want from me?”
One way to mitigate this fear is to get involved in student organizations, sports or other groups here at East. Being a member of these groups instantly gives you access to a network of people with whom you share some interest. Making conversation will feel significantly less awkward if you’re speaking with others who are passionate about the same things you are.
There’s a great sense of community within many of the groups at our school. Clubs are constantly searching for new members, no matter the time of year. If you’re looking for an easy way to find some new potential friends, consider giving one of them a shot. You never know who you’ll meet.