How to talk to fellow humans after quarantine

A brief guide to recouping the social skills you’ve likely lost over the last few months

a fellow teenager reintegrating after an extended quarantine

The fact that this piece is starting out with not one,

… not two,

… but three consecutive outdated memes bodes well for the rest of it, yeah, but I’m willing to bet that it’s still loads more eloquent than the first face-to-face conversations many of us will be having with others after spending nearly an entire year sheltering in place.

Communication is confusing

Words are a marvellous thing, and the approximately 7,117 languages currently being spoken across the globe have all helped propel progress and innovation over millennia. We owe a lot to communication both written and spoken, but one of many things that quarantine has made clear is that there are volumes of subtleties lost in text and video conferencing. Nonverbal communication carries far more weight than many would notice; things like light sarcasm and humor don’t translate well to text, and spelling things out instead of gesturing or conveying via expression is just… clunkier.

Considering how we have more or less grown accustomed to the clunk, we can be excused for lacking some social graces when we get  back out into a Covid-free  world hopefully sometime soon. That doesn’t mean that inelegance should be part of the post-new normal era, of course, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you flub a joke or forget what to do with your hands when you had meant to gesture out an oddly specific thing. Many people across the globe are in less-than-ideal mental states—so be kind to yourself.

How to socialize again

Take baby steps the first few times you head back out; find touchpoints among friends so you have something to fall back on if things become overwhelming. Start with small, simple interactions like maybe ordering fast food or window shopping at a store you used to frequent.

Don’t forget to open up about your feelings, if not with others then at the very least with yourself (though having frank conversations with people you trust has long been shown to have positive effects on mental and physiological health). Not only does this take a load of stress off your mind, but it’ll also make it easier to identify things you could improve upon to keep your head above water.

There’s a difference between merely hearing and listening, and much as it triggers us introverts there are more immediate benefits to active listening and social engagement than there are to just passively registering information. It’s more work, though the extra effort that goes into it does reward you well. It’s like that old saying: no pain, no gain.

It helps to set distinct, achievable goals every time you venture into the great outdoors among others and do your best to achieve them without overexerting yourself. Be firm about rewarding yourself when you meet those goals because they will be well-deserved, and gradually increase the number and scope of goals as you grow more comfortable with what you can currently achieve.

Ultimately, these are all broad stroke approaches to getting back into the swing of things after what could well be nine full months of social isolation. Go at your own pace, and don’t forget to observe proper social distancing and the like, because it might be a while before vaccine rollout meets projected targets. Still, it’s a ray of hope that soon, we’re going to be able to spend time with the people we love in person again.

Besides, restaurant food just doesn’t taste the same when you have it delivered to your doorstep; that in itself is almost completely worth the effort.

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