MADISON (WKOW) — Years of limited face-to-face contact have taken a toll on the social skills of many Americans.
As summer activities escalate, it’s causing anxiety for some as they relearn how to converse with people both one-on-one and in groups.
“Everything changed,” said Audrey Dietzman of Madison. “The way people talk to you, how close they come to you.”
Madison’s Terance Kramer also felt the change. He said the lack of opportunities to connect with people from all walks of life has created some gaps, such as generational gaps.
“At 62, it’s pretty hard to know what young people want to talk about, but still, I’m doing my best,” Kramer said.
Dr. Christine Whelan, a clinical professor at UW Madison’s School of Human Ecology, said if you feel a little awkward while conversing with others, you’re not alone.
“Most of us feel a little uneasy as we come home after quarantine, after isolation, after a long period of wary social environments,” Whelan said.
To fight the discomfort and become your best self again, Whelan recommends taking small steps back into the world.
“Just because social interaction is awkward doesn’t mean you don’t want to do it,” Whelan said. “It could mean that you’re just a little rusty and out of practice. So even if you don’t want to go past what feels right, give yourself a little push to go out, take a walk with friends , go to that barbecue, see how it feels.”
Whelan also recommends being careful about who you spend your time with.
“Who gives you energy? Who is sapping your energy? Whelan said. “Make conscious choices about how you are going to spend your summer months.”
If you find yourself on the flip side and notice someone else having trouble making conversation in a social setting, Whelan advises you to step in and make them feel welcome.
“It’s a good opportunity to invite them, maybe one-on-one or in a small group, rather than this large, overwhelming group,” Whelan said.
All of these things will help make it easier to get back into social settings this summer.
“Research reveals that relationships are really at the heart of what makes us happy and that socializing and going out is going to help improve our mood and make it easier to continue socializing,” Whelan said.