How To Brush Up On Your Social Skills As We Move Into A Post-Pandemic World
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As we start interacting with other people face-to-face, it might help to brush up on manners and social skills as some said they were feeling a bit rusty in this area.
If Lizzie Post said her social muscles atrophied during the pandemic, there must be something to the headlines in the popular press: “We’re all socially awkward now” (The Washington Post), “COVID and social skills” (Parade), “How to be social again” (New York Times).
Lizzie is a great-great-granddaughter of famed etiquette author Emily Post. She’s currently rewriting her great, great grandmother’s 700-plus page tome, Emily Post’s Etiquette.
“I’ve noticed moments where my brain is catching in conversation and it’s like, ‘Whoa, do you, like, normally say things like this to people?’” she said. “I think it’s definitely a common experience. I’m feeling it.”
Her advice for making small talk was to “(talk about) sports entertainment, podcasts, books, movies, TV shows, all great things. What you’ve been up to. Asking people questions about themselves is always a great conversation starter.”
Alix Court, who works in real estate and poetry, said it’s difficult returning to face-to-face communication, because for more than a year, our faces have been masked.
“When a human being is communicating with you face to face, there’s a lot of data, information that’s being shared,” he said. “I’ve spent so much time alone that I don’t even know if my face works, right, you know, and the only way I can really tell is by referencing against other people’s faces. We’re social referencing organisms,” he said. “I think everybody’s had too much time looking in each other’s eyes. They kind of want to see the words coming out of their mouths.”
Court even wrote a poem about the end of the pandemic:
Learning to be a person again
One year of masks and hidden smiles
time with mother
But now they say, we can come out again and play
Boy, how I have forgotten
Well come what may
Utah business etiquette consultant Ellen Reddick said she has seen interpersonal skills slip during the pandemic.
“We need to start thanking people. We need to look people in the eye. We’ve got to smile. We’ve got to be pleasant, the tone of our voice,” she said. “We’re so used to bouncing back from someone if we run into someone in the aisle in a grocery store. We recoil and it’s not a good look”
“You’ve got to build up that muscle, I guess,” said Lizzie Post. “I think we do have to build up our social muscles again, and that’s where I think leaning into really classic forms of etiquette can help.”
One unanswered etiquette question, post-pandemic: what is the fate of the handshake?
Miryam S. Roddy, a communications and PR consultant in the Philadelphia area and “cheerleader” for National Handshake Day, said she shakes hands now, but understands why many do not.
She said the handshake’s comeback is inevitable.
“The handshake is not going to go away. It helps build relationships,” she said.
Roddy recommended “a firm shake, which is what it should be. Not bone-crushing, but firm.”
She explained how to do it properly.
“You basically just web to web, thumb joint, you know. 1, 2, 3 pumps, let go,” said Roddy. “And you’re supposed to be about two to three feet away.”
If you’re unsure if someone is ready to shake hands again, Post explained, “I’d probably say ’Handshake, okay?’ or ‘Is the handshake welcome?’”
Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease specialist, said deciding whether to shake or not is a personal decision, but he recommended that those who shake should use hand sanitizer.
New Yorker Magazine recently offered readers “Emily Post’s Post-Pandemic Etiquette,” which is tongue-in-cheek advice that gave Lizzie Post a laugh.
It said, “Women who wear makeup must apply it to the top and bottom of their faces; during performances, theater-goers shouldn’t watch Tik Tok videos at full volume and, in public, men must wear pants.”
“Pants are important,” Lizzie Post agreed. “They really are.”
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