Article source: Jodi Helmer for AARP
5 Tips for Successful Social Interactions
Before making plans with a friend, ask about their comfort level with social gatherings: Are they up for a daylong event with a group of friends, or would they prefer to ease in to social interactions with a shorter, one-on-one outing?
“There is a lot of social anxiety that goes along with reentry [and] communication is key,” Smith says. “Ask questions, respect people’s answers … and know what you want yourself and be able to convey that to others.”
2. Don’t shy away from awkward moments
You reach out for a hug; your friend steps back. There are lots of pauses in the conversation during lunch. Your social skills may be little rusty after a year of quarantine, and initial interactions might not be smooth, Levine says.
Don’t be so embarrassed by an awkward encounter that you are afraid to try again. If you were talking on top of someone else, forgot to make eye contact or ran out of things to say, remember that it takes practice to get your social mojo back.
And if there’s a pause in conversation, remember to ask questions about the other person’s life and practice your listening skills. That’s always a good way to keep the chatter going.
3. Extend grace to others
On the flip side, if you meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while and the conversation seems one-sided and their interactions aren’t as effortless as your remember, don’t judge harshly. Give people a pass at first.
“For a lot of us, acclimation will be quick,” Levine says. “Until then, offer people a little more grace.”
4. Listen to your body
The pandemic has taken its toll on mental and physical health. Social isolation is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and early death from all causes in older adults — and communities of color are at higher risk, according to AARP research. If you’re feeling unwell, find social interactions especially stressful, or notice changes in mood or behavior, make an appointment with your doctor.
5. Don’t give up
When a social interaction doesn’t go well, don’t shred your social calendar and retreat into isolation. Realize that for many people, that social muscle is rusty. “We have to normalize that no one is doing OK from the pandemic,” Smith says. “It’s courageous to try again.”