25 votes

Does anyone else feel like they don’t know how to talk to people anymore?

I never considered myself an introvert or shy. I’ve always been comfortable talking with strangers, whether that was in my college class or just sparking up a conversation with someone next to me in line.

I haven’t talked to a stranger irl since the pandemic started and I’m running scenarios in my brain about how I would talk to someone when I just met them. And every situation I’m going through I’m being awkward and uncomfortable.

I can talk to my family and my cousins, who are essentially my only friends, just fine but that’s different since there’s already an established way of communication there.

I just feel like I’m gonna be so rusty at talking to people, which is a shame because I’ve spent years learning how to talk to strangers in a certain way to make them comfortable and to very easily have a conversation. And I feel like I lost all of that now.

9 comments

  1. Staross
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    I think it's like biking, might be a bit hard at first but it will come back quickly. Overthinking it is certainly not the way to go.

    I think it's like biking, might be a bit hard at first but it will come back quickly. Overthinking it is certainly not the way to go.

    14 votes
  2. ali
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    I feel the same, I barely spoke to people in the last year. However, in the last week I have talked to three different people and apart from the first encounters, after a while it kind of works...

    I feel the same, I barely spoke to people in the last year. However, in the last week I have talked to three different people and apart from the first encounters, after a while it kind of works out. I think there’ll be some awkward moments, but after a couple of tries it works fine. Yestrerday I got to know my neighbor for the first time and after an awkward start we chatted for like 20 minutes

    9 votes
  3. Atvelonis
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    I had the same concern, but it's been okay so far. I think we internalize these skills at a very deep level. I've had a lot of uncomfortable interactions during the pandemic, but they've been...

    I had the same concern, but it's been okay so far. I think we internalize these skills at a very deep level. I've had a lot of uncomfortable interactions during the pandemic, but they've been rooted more heavily in an uncertainty over how I'm being perceived by this person whose face I can't see than in any genuine lack of conversational ability on my part.

    The pandemic has jaded me, though, and I've lost some of my patience for ritualistic smalltalk. I'm trying to channel some of this newfound directness into jumpstarting otherwise dull conversations rather than immediately disengaging from them. Usually this entails a hint of the offbeat.

    I also seem to have started automatically smiling with my eyes a bit more—no doubt a holdover from having to exaggerate my expressions under the mask, but I think it brightens people up a little. And myself.

    4 votes
  4. tiltedcerebellum
    (edited )
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    I am a now-gregarious introvert, only because I trained myself to start conversations and be conversational (did not come naturally at all). I personally think that Covid isolation has made all...

    I am a now-gregarious introvert, only because I trained myself to start conversations and be conversational (did not come naturally at all). I personally think that Covid isolation has made all communication a bit awkward. In many ways our cognition has also shifted a bit from communication being mediated primarily through technology for such a long period. We're now used to thinking about communication and communicating differently. Much of the spontaneity was removed in some ways, and a very two-dimensional novelty added in others. I for one greatly missed body language and tone of voice because both are something I taught myself to attend to carefully and read in order to better understand people's moods and emotions, which I generally find to be puzzling at the best of times lol.

    One thing I'm going to keep in mind is that everyone is likely feeling the same about communication's awkwardness to some degree, we're all probably going to be (or just feel) a bit awkward. Talking without a face mask after all this time almost feels a little like being pantless for the first while perhaps lol. Plus we're probably all a little squirrely and/or cabin-feverish after this amount of time, so I tend to think the one good thing about this happening to everyone in tandem is, we're each likely going through similar things and focused more on our own experience and nervousness than other's actions. For some they barely remember what non-pandemic communication was like after more than a year lol. Lots of extroverts (who didn't seem to fare as well as introverts) are likely going to be so relieved to have meaningful in-person social interaction again, that it's all going to feel pretty good, regardless of awkwardness. I also think many will be too busy focusing on the novelty of these experiences to focus on awkwardness.

    I like @Atveloni's mention of smiling with their eyes more, this actually makes perfect sense. We had to learn to be expressive with half of our faces covered, this certainly changes the way we do some things. I can tell I have also started to do the same. Facial expressions were never something I was very animated with or even occurred to me much of the time, but smiling with my eyes was something I ended up making a concerted effort to think about. I wonder if this will stick for me lol. Unlike Atveloni I was always quite a direct person (unusual for women I'm told), so to me the small talk will be quite a nice break of experiencing people not hiding behind avatars (which let's face it, online this can create quite the different behavior and often not for the better, where in-person has a different sense of social accountability). I honestly also think people are just going to need time getting used to seeing other's mouths again after all this time lol! So, there are lots of other places for people to focus their attention rather than us being a bit awkward at first.

    4 votes
  5. tomf
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    I went to a birthday thing at the beach a few weeks ago. We had a fire and all that and it was great -- but everybody was rusty at first. Typical conversation Person1: What have you been up to?...

    I went to a birthday thing at the beach a few weeks ago. We had a fire and all that and it was great -- but everybody was rusty at first.

    Typical conversation

    Person1: What have you been up to?
    Person2: Nothing
    Person1: Me neither. Nothing is new.

    After the initial stuff was covered everybody slowly got back into the rhythm and the evening was fantastic. I'm not the type of person who ever asks how work or anything is going. If I know a mutual interest, I start with that and build.

    Everybody is going to be rusty, though and you'll definitely get back into the swing of things after some initial awkwardness. Its just another muscle that needs to be worked again.

    3 votes
  6. knocklessmonster
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    I've never been good at it, but the practice I've gotten doesn't seem to have deteriorated at least. That's probably not quite the question you were asking. Oddly, I may have gotten better, after...

    I've never been good at it, but the practice I've gotten doesn't seem to have deteriorated at least. That's probably not quite the question you were asking.

    Oddly, I may have gotten better, after a couple experiences I've had recently.

    3 votes
  7. JCPhoenix
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    If anything, I spoke with people more during the pandemic than ever. I took a position as an IT field tech towards the end of 2019. Aside from the 4-6 weeks of lockdown in April/May 2020, I was...

    If anything, I spoke with people more during the pandemic than ever. I took a position as an IT field tech towards the end of 2019. Aside from the 4-6 weeks of lockdown in April/May 2020, I was still showing up for work and visiting my clients' offices during it all. There's a lot that can't be done remote. And during lockdown, I was still assisting users over the phone plenty. So lots of talking.

    In fact, I don't have nearly as much as experience as others with Zoom, Teams, etc. because of that. I recently went back to my previous in-house internal IT job; my coworkers there did go full remote for like 6mo, then did partial remote for another 6mo. They hosted a full-on virtual event with over a thousand attendees. Even though I am IT on the helpdesk/desktop support side of things, I feel like I'm playing catch up with some of these tools and having to get used to meetings over Zoom, even when the participants are all in the office.

    3 votes
  8. mrbig
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    I'm naturally recluse, but I have no trouble being eloquent when I want. Maybe because of that, my ability to communicate verbally is the same as before. To be quite honest, I get the impression...

    I'm naturally recluse, but I have no trouble being eloquent when I want. Maybe because of that, my ability to communicate verbally is the same as before.

    To be quite honest, I get the impression that you're worrying too much. You're gonna be fine ;)

    3 votes
  9. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
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    1. cloud_loud
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      I feel like video chat and talking irl are still two different beasts honestly.

      I feel like video chat and talking irl are still two different beasts honestly.

      3 votes