As the lockdown rules were announced to ease over the coming weeks, a sudden fear of dread came over me. I’ve forgotten how to be social.
After thirteen months in lockdown and never being in a group setting larger than six, I cannot imagine what it will be like to be back at a busy bar and socialising again. I’ll be honest, it scared me for a second but then I remembered this is just another hurdle I need to jump over in order to become the best possible version of myself.
Being isolated with my family for the last year has been enjoyable and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do so as I know not everyone was as fortunate. Having said that, my conversation skills have consisted of talking to an eight-year old and a five-year old.
How on earth do you speak to someone over the age of 20? In order to gain social skills, I had to build up some confidence first.
This post will serve as a how-to guide for how to gain social skills in 2021.
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Let’s start small
I know myself. I know that if I went to a massive gathering, filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, it would freak me out. In order to build my social confidence back up, I need to start with the basics.
Don’t push yourself too far, if you know you’re not ready to meet others, don’t. There’s no rush.
Try going shopping or going to an outside gathering that has large open spaces could help!
Reach out to the people you trust
If you’re feeling anxious about an up and coming event, reach out to someone you trust that will be there. Explain how you are feeling and your anxious thoughts.
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous, allow yourself to speak freely about it and understand the problem better. I find it’s helpful talking to others as they have an outside perspective and can offer advice.
Create a plan B
Always ensure you have a way home. If you want to leave an event early ensure you have a secured way home. For example, if you are travelling with someone else, if you want to leave and they don’t – what’s your plan B?
I find this settles my mind knowing that if I want to leave, then I can. I’m not trapped.
Create talking points
This is a great one if you’re socialising with people that are acquaintances. Create a number of talking points in your journal before an event. I usually do this by creating open-ended questions, so the conversation doesn’t die off as quickly.
Some examples of open-ended questions:
- What were you doing today?
- Where did you grow up? – What was it like there?
- What are your plans for next week?
- Why did you come to this event?
- What type of music do you listen to?
Practice makes perfect
Being social can be difficult at the best of times. Don’t beat yourself up about it, if you’re finding it difficult. The cliche saying comes to mind.
Practice makes perfect. Of course not perfect, but enough practice to feel comfortable in yourself.
The more you put yourself out there, the more natural it will feel.
Don’t let it get you down when things don’t go your way
Social encounters can be awkward. That doesn’t mean it was your doing. There are a number of reasons why social interaction can be awkward.
- The other person feels a similar way, anxious about social settings, and they are struggling to create conversation.
- The other person is having an off day. This is a big one to remember. If someone is having an off day, you probably won’t know about it. They might also take that bad mood out on you. The main point to remember is other people’s behaviours are not a reflection of you.
- You might run into someone who you don’t know well enough, it can cause an awkward vibe, and that’s okay!
If you have an awkward encounter or an encounter that you found awkward, remember that people don’t care… it’s not something that is memorable.
Can you name a specific conversation that you had with someone six months ago that was awkward? Probably not!
Silence is okay, you don’t need to fill the gap
Ever just find yourself rambling on and on, for no reason? Almost like word vomit? Me too!
Silences are okay and can be the opposite of awkward, depending on how you look at them.
If you feel comfortable enough with someone, that silence isn’t awkward – that’s a good thing! Enjoy the pauses and use it to your advantage. Use the time to think of more talking points. Process what the other person has been talking about and expand on the topic.
It’s okay to take a moment to yourself.
How to gain social skills in 2021
Being in a social setting is something we will all have to get used to again. In a year we will not know any different and life will hopefully be back to normal.
The important thing is to remember that it’s okay to mess up. Take your time to get back into normality, there’s no rush.
What are some techniques that help you gain social skills?
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