The pandemic has taken many things in our daily lives, but has it also taken the art of conversation?
This week marks a watershed moment for the year as shops, restaurants, pubs and bars slowly start to reopen for regular trade. As we excitedly prepare to rejoin our friends and family in outdoor fun, one issue looms over many – the potential anxiety of actually talking to people face to face.
Over the past few months, we have all become accustomed to daily conversations over digital screens; be it through Zoom, Whatsapp or FaceTime – our collective socialising has shifted to become an online activity. This ‘new normal’, as it is touted by much of the press, has many upsides (it kept us all in touch, abating loneliness, and allowed many of us to continue to work through the global lockdown) but perhaps it also holds a less desirable undertone.
According to recent social reports, many are wondering if they will be able to cope with heading straight back into large social situations after being isolated for such a long period of time. Many fear having lost the actual art of conversation itself.
However, those that count themselves as someone who may find it difficult to simply speak to a friend or relative during this re-socialisation period, need not worry – they should take comfort in the fact that conversation is a skill and all skills are retainable even after long periods of disuse.
Why might my face-to-face conversations feel different now?
First, we must acknowledge how in-person communication differs from its digital counterpart:
One of the many benefits of face-to-face conversations is that they keep our brains active because we have to think on our feet when formulating our replies. To maintain the natural flow of a conversation in person, we have to be able to think up and vocalise our responses quickly; a skill that does not apply to non-verbal platforms such as text conversations.
According to psychologists around 90% of the way we communicate is non-verbal and instead expressed through eye contact, body language or facial expressions. Naturally, as a result, by not being able to utilise these tools we may difficult to fully get our points across accurately (as an interesting side-note, psychologists credit Emojis with the explosive growth of text-messaging due to their substitution of facial expressions).
Digital communication also leads to potentially outsized confidence, as it’s far easier to manufacture the way that you represent yourself to the other person. The digital barrier puts up a metaphorical wall between you and the other person, which leaves us feeling far less vulnerable or ‘seen’ than we may do during a face-to-face conversation, especially when we are conversing with someone that we do not know very well.
How can I get back to normal?
To return to being our wonderfully sociable selves, we must remember a few key points:
First of all, many of us are in the same boat. Whether we consider ourselves an introvert or extrovert, the psychology of holding an effective conversation is still the same and it is perfectly normal to have a certain level of awkwardness during face-to-face conversations after an extended period without them.
Secondly, try to get back into the habit of communicating non-verbally. Maintain eye contact, keep your brain on the conversation and remember that half of the battle is being a good listener – so don’t get lost in your thoughts panicking about it too much.
After a very strange few months, there are plenty of areas in our lives where we are adapting back into the real world. If you feel things aren’t flowing quite as well as you’d expect when you begin meeting up with friends again post-lockdown, remember that the person you’re speaking to probably feels the same – it’s not just you – and that you will readjust soon enough. After all, in the grand scheme of your life, it has only been a few weeks and DDW is here to bring you back into a glamorous life of social events.
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