Did We Forget How To Socialise?

April 3, 2023

I don’t know about you, but I did. I forgot what was like to go out and seek people, events and experiences, and all that thanks to the solitude I have got accustomed to and developed during the lockdowns. Got back into reading, found multiple types of media (tv shows, podcasts, graphic novels, movies, games, etc.), everyone I know, I can reach via text, and slowly but surely I forgot how to search and plan new outdoor experiences.

Not sure if it became a learned habit or just that the anxiety was overpowering the excitement to get “back to normal”. But recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see a local design event in person! Clicked attend immediately. And there I learned a lot, met a bunch of cool people and learned more about them and what they do. It was refreshing.

Learning, chatting, and sharing funny stories over a meal or a drink. Just time to be social. — Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

For this year, one of my professional goals is to tide up my personal goals which include travelling more and seeking colleagues, digital nomads, freelancers and people in design during such events and meetups. Why? Because learning from other people is my hobby. I love listening to and observing other people's stories, passions, struggles and experiences. Sharing is carrying, and it is true. You never know how important or motivational a piece of information can be for someone that meets you for the first time.

Who knew we would need something like tips to reclaim a social life too? Sounds like a movie plot twist to me. If you still struggle to get back out there (business, friendship or overall social wise) try to acknowledge your feelings and the anxiety that comes with those.

What to do?

  • Expect some social anxiety and acknowledge it — it is okay to feel uneasy about the thought of meeting strangers, going to public closed places and trying to socialize after we all had a pause of 2–3 years.
  • But don’t avoid social situations — it’s not going to help you in the long run. Challenge yourself instead and seek to see what are the benefits of attending this specific event and what can you give while you are there. How can you make the best out of it?
  • Start small and increase the intensity gradually — fear of missing out (FOMO) or trying to get back with everyone and anyone won’t help you with developing stronger connections. Instead starts small and put efforts into social interaction with time. There is no need to rush and be everywhere for everyone. Make space for attending an event once a month, then make it twice and create space for new experiences in between.
  • Prepare and plan — what are your concerns? What makes your anxiety go up? Research and plan in advance to find a way to tackle such situations so you can enjoy the event or gathering you are trying to attend.
  • Set clear boundaries — something we learn throughout our whole life. Make sure you communicate your boundaries with people you meet either upfront or in person. It is okay if you don’t want to shake hands, hug or seat with strangers within the first encounter, just let them know that you are still adjusting to socialising and need more time to shorten the space. That is not embarrassing, that is being self-aware and vulnerable to some extent. Do you agree?
  • Don’t overthink too much — overthinking can make you go into spirals and can potentially put a lot of pressure on you. Do yourself a favour and silence the inner critique, including the little voice of the imposter and get into action. Go out there and try to not overthink socialising too much.
  • And for God's sake, be yourself — it is much easier than presenting yourself as someone you think other people want to talk to. Genuine connection happens when people share similar values, interests and perspectives, this is how we build trust and relationships. So keep it simple and show your personality as it is. And remember, as our designs (websites, apps and products), we too are a work in progress and change with time!
  • Focus on what is happening around you — observe the dynamics and topics others are discussing, and try to listen and focus on the environment rather than on how nervous you are and how you feel. The thing is, more people than you think also feel anxious and nervous about being around strangers. Even those who seem confident. What you can try is to imagine that you are talking to a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Be gentle to yourself — when you feel like you lack confidence or start self-criticising yourself for your social interactions, remember that you are human and you are flawed by nature. It is okay if you make a mistake or forget to exchange a pleasantry, instead focus on how good you are doing so far and how can you improve your soft skills. And celebrate, celebrate your new connections and achievements.

Let me know what event you plan to attend next! Is it a networking event or a party you want to check?

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P.S. Some of the stories I have published on my website include read-out-loud links. Visit my blog to see which ones.

Have a great week! 🌸

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