Expanding Our Circles

The days are lasting longer, the sun is shining brighter, and on the wisps of the wind is the hopeful news that social distancing will eventually become a thing of the past. After a year, even the most introverted among us is craving some socialization. Time to pull up your calendar and start planning some real-life, in-person interactions… but before you plan that big bash, consider some constraints for your guest list. I usually advocate for inclusivity, but now is the time for moderation. As we emerge this spring, we need to start slow and safely build on our successes.

Be a minimalist ~ For the first few social events, keep it short and small. Invite one or two friends for a specified duration. Timing should be 45 minutes to an hour. Consider a stroll on a sunny day, mid-morning tea or afternoon cocktail hour. For now, outdoors is preferable to indoors.

Reality check ~ In addition to your venue being well ventilated, be prepared for some deep and raw conversations. Some have lost loved ones, some face financial instability, and others may just want to discuss situations made more difficult by this past, quite trying, year. An opening salvo of "how are you" can quickly lead to a weighty conversation. Be a good listener. Express concern, and when necessary, condolences. Follow the other person's lead. If they want to talk, allow them to continue. If they prefer to keep the conversation moving along, allow the topics to progress.

Breezy banter ~ The stilted conversations on video chat, where you can opt to mute your microphone or turn off your camera, were not a replacement for real life small talk. Just like any other learned skill, chatting takes practice. After months of video only, some of your initial conversations may feel strange and awkward. Consider some conversational topics in advance should the flow falter. Your gift of gab will return over time.

Explicit invitations ~ As the host, in addition to the typical information such as date and time, you should include expectations around mask-wearing, social distancing and even how you will greet one another. Also be clear if you will be eating or serving food and who else will be in attendance. Your guests need to know all the information before they accept.

Do ask, do tell ~ The all-clear bell has not yet sounded. It is perfectly acceptable, and even polite to ask if someone has been vaccinated and when. It is equally acceptable to decline an invitation if you are not comfortable with the answers.

Chock full ~ While our lives were on pause, major lifecycle milestones continued. Many will opt to mark these lifecycle events in the coming year. You will soon start sending and receiving invitations for birth celebrations, graduations, weddings, and even memorials. Save-the-dates are just that, a chance for you to add the event to your calendar. Adding the date to your calendar does not obligate you to attend. The invitations, on the other hand, do require a response.

Social activities and polite interactions are like all other skills. They must be practiced to stay in top form. As we emerge from this pandemic, take the time to stretch your social skills as we ramp back up to real life in our new normal. Begin by interacting with a few friends and build over time. Remember, manners matter, but safety first.