Reconnecting after social distancing is a little like being a hibernating animal, emerging sleepy-eyed from the den, to discover a new Spring.
Except that, instead of slumbering, we have been experiencing loss after loss: of work, of meeting with others, of familiar loved places. It’s not surprising if we feel a little apprehension over discarding our T-shirts and pajama bottoms to emerge into the social scene once more.
I wrote an article a couple of years ago called “Networking is a Life Skill,” meant to help those who had immersed themselves so much in their work that they had forgotten how to connect. In it, I reminded people that we all need to use our social connection skills all the time, not just to get a better job, in order to remain resilient in the face of change.
That time has come, and some of my guidelines have changed.
Here are some points on the roadmap to more successful connecting
We all have a library of mental “filters” we use to exclude others: “She doesn’t look worth talking to,” “He doesn’t look approachable,” etc.
Be honest: did your filters serve you well before the pandemic? Were you meeting interesting people who were interested in you?
A few weeks ago I saw a man on my front sidewalk, looking at my house. He said he was admiring it, a 137-year-old Victorian. I told him I was going to rent out the loft. Because it was much on my mind, I spontaneously added that I wanted to find someone with technological skills with whom I could do a swap: rent for help. He wasn’t looking to rent, but he had the skills, and I now have a new much-needed technical assistant.
In another instance, at a Fair, I spontaneously said to someone I had just met that I was looking for speaking opportunities, and bang! He offered me one.
I recall the numerous business meetings and conferences I used to attend, where you would see small clusters of people who obviously knew one another well, clustered in a tight circle, with their backs turned to the rest of the room.
But it’s a new world into which we are emerging, and I hope, a kinder one.
If you are at any gathering and see someone hovering at the edge, looking a little uncertain, be the person who goes over greets and tries to find out more about this person whom you’ve ever met before.
And don’t be afraid to go over to that tight cluster, stick your head in, and say, “Hello. Got room for one more person?”
When talking to someone else, try mightily to find something positive to say to him or her, whether it’s about appearance or some bit of information they share with you.
Share your appreciation for every small kindness, every bit of thoughtfulness others show.
Spread “thank you” around as if it were magic fertilizer. It is.
In other words, learn to set your ego aside and be truly interested in others. The rewards are rich: you will attract the same kind of behavior while having the satisfaction of seeing society around you become more compassionate.
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Lynette Crane is a speaker, coach, trainer, and author who specializes in resilience training and heart-brain connections. She holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California and a life coach certification from Coach Training Alliance, and is a certified trainer and coach/mentor with HeartMath™ Institute.