Social skills coaching: Pandemic fades, society stands


Social skills coaching expert Atefeh Sadeghi suggests we need to sharpen our social skills anew.

Reinstating your social life and refreshing your sense of collectivity after more than a year of dormancy of sociability can feel daunting. I describe it as being similar to the feeling one gets when water pipes have broken in the ceilings of the master bedroom, the kitchen and the bathroom. There is no way to fix that without tearing down the entire ceiling of the house, and once that is in process, comes the feeling of oh! Then why not go for a complete renovation now that the ceiling is off? All your faculties are suddenly called in and all your senses are of value and matter.

Visiting what has been the recent past and looking into the future, we know it has always been invigorating to reshape our personal and professional lives but what has it meant to us and to our societies now that a change, a transformation has been imposed?

This thought is now what could lead you to grab your brush – it is offering you this moment to paint your social life anew according to your recently discovered or rediscovered elements of joy. The truth is that it has been hidden from us by societal norms, that everything relies on human emotions and there is no use in hiding it. This has become rapidly evident in our daily life since the pandemic as all of a sudden a rush of diverse feelings surfaced. Resilience was suddenly the most needed characteristic we had to build and following that, social resilience was inevitable. Now that things are starting to feel less restrictive, should we keep it? I believe we should because we will need all the discoveries and learnings of it through our lifetime as we navigate our social wellbeing.

To get back to a social life, in a completely new way, it is time to recognize that things have changed and so have you, even if in minor forms. This also means that society at large has changed and that your social life has taken a bizarre turn of events in an attempt to keep you afloat and energetic despite all because that is the essential vitality on which the existence of a society relies. And this society is in need of a reshaping, while we as individuals and in our collective presence need to sharpen our social skills anew after they have been adjusted to fit into a very limited screen version of a social life.

While things closed down on you, so many other things opened up to you, didn’t they?
Another step in rebuilding your social life, and I invite you to do it gradually to prevent an overwhelming situation, is to process this time in your evaluation of society as it presents itself today. An uncertainty has been created and despite its charm, it can feel troubling. Forced to think things through more than we were ever used to, we can harness this as a method of mindfulness towards all and every being. This is what can bring us the delight of a social life, in connectivity and togetherness.

As a very intertwined state, we and the society need each other. We need society for our sense of existence in interaction with others, in validation of ourselves for our efforts that are reflected outside of us. And society needs us for its mere existence. Rebuilding our social life now is about taking care of ourselves and being kind to our hearts and minds because they need collectiveness. This is how we can celebrate our mental health. As the renowned Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel puts it: “Mental health is the thermometre of sociability and social wellbeing in the society at large.”

When I was thrown off by the absence of social interactions, it was a friend who lent me their extra bike so that I could try to get out of my apartment and get moving. At first, it felt impossible. As a very sociable person who preferred to do the outside home activities with others and have her own individual time at home, I was forced to do everything alone. It took discipline and hard mental work to get myself there. As things have been opening up slowly, I thought I would be the one to jump out first. However, I was surprised that in my first steps towards social interactions I was afraid and sceptical about the results that I could expect from an outing. That was the moment I had to call in my relational intelligence in order to get myself ready for being sociable again. One thing that helped me greatly was knowing that, for once, everyone can relate to everyone at many levels and recognize what has been going on around us.

So, I had a social life as my source of energy before, then it was my bicycle to serve that purpose. And now it’s like both tyres are flat and I have no clue what to turn to. That is what I expressed to my friend when I arrived to enjoy coffee at one of my favourite places in Brussels. Our conversation took off so seamlessly from that point, and we could easily express ourselves and talk about how defeated we feel as the pandemic is seemingly fading away while society does not appear to be coming back at the same speed. It is time to relax knowing that we can only take so much control of the steering wheel right now. At the same time, the forces of these changes came from the pandemic but the need for a change in our social life now could come from our own drive and our very own inspirations.

Bring light into your social life
Be open to taking the initiative. It could be that in your social circle, everyone is waiting for someone to take the lead and start a get-together. It is natural that many may still have concerns. It is also quite natural that many others would feel that it has been enough time. In between these two feelings, there is a point that we need to find in order to bring light to and get together. A point at which everyone will feel able to fully enjoy others’ company. So, be the one to call for a gathering and do not shy away if some people raise concerns. Instead, provide them with just enough mindfulness and validation of their concerns.

Bring to the outside what you found inside. Did you nurture some of your long desired ideas? Did you materialize a thought into something beyond? Did you discover some areas of your life that needed polishing? Share them all. Society has now become more accepting towards the ideas of every person involved in any structure.

Carry yourself to the next level. Something you have earned through the time of silent social existence can be the stepping stone for someone else to grow their ideas based on. There is certainly and most definitely a stepping stone for your next endeavours within the gains of others. Share these together.

And this is how society will come together again, at a pace that everyone can catch up with, in their own comfort and with their own deeper peace.

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