In person is back, baby! But, it feels as if our social muscles have atrophied over the last two years. Let’s face it, Zoom is just not the same as being in an office with your coworkers. First of all, sweatpants. Second of all, there’s not that same level of self-consciousness.
When you’re behind a screen, you don’t have to worry about what your hands are doing, no one’s in your space, and most of your energy only has to go to exaggerating your facial expressions to respond to what someone else is saying. After an in-person interaction, you feel drained to the point that a 15 minute conversation necessitates an hour long recuperation period.
As we return to in-person work, it’s time to get back to basics. Here are three things you can do to set yourself up for success when interacting with people face-to-face, from a basic conversation to recovering after a long day. Let’s get buzzy with a Bee’s Knees from the Back to Basics Bar.
Return to In-Person Work: A Recipe for a Bee’s Knees
- ½ ounce active listening honey syrup
- 1 ounce lemon juice (about ½ medium lemon)
- 2 ounces gin
- Lemon twist, for garnish
- To make the honey syrup: Combine equal parts honey and water (say, 2 tablespoons each if you’re only making a few cocktails) in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan. Warm in the microwave or over the stovetop just until you can completely stir the honey into the water. Set aside.
- Before juicing your lemons, use a vegetable peeler or channel knife to peel off a strip(s) of zest for your twist.
- To make the cocktail, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the honey syrup, lemon juice and gin. Securely fasten the lid and shake until the mixture is very cold, about 30 seconds.
- Strain the drink into a coupe or martini glass. Twist the lemon peel over the cocktail to release some of its oils, then drop it in. Enjoy cold.
Step One: Bee Prepared.
Make your active listening honey syrup by combining equal parts honey and water in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan, then warming in the microwave or stovetop until just combined.
Like our honey syrup, interactions should be equal and sweet. Instead of taking over or losing interest in conversations, use active listening to set yourself up for better, less self-focused communications as you return to in-person work.
If a conversation was a tennis match, we often focus on rallying back what we want to say rather than paying attention to our partner’s serve. For good conversation, listen to understand. Take on a “listen more, talk less mindset”.
A tool for active listening is the edit back, or rephrasing what someone is saying back to them.
- Person A: “Do you have any exciting plans for this weekend?”
- Person B: “I think I’m going to binge-watch Queer Eye with my partner. I’m pretty excited.”
- Person A: “You’re going to watch Queer Eye with your partner and you’re excited,”
- Person B: “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to watch it forever, but never got the chance because I’ve been busy with work. I’ve heard good things and thought this would be the perfect time!”
After editing back, you get one of three responses.
- “Yes”, to which you can ask open-ended questions like “Tell me more” or “What else should I know?” to go deeper.
- “Yes and…”, such as in the example above.
- Or, “Actually I meant….”, correcting you.
However the edit back goes, you learn more about the person and give them space to elaborate.
Step Two: Shake it up, don’t get shaken up.
Fill your cocktail shaker with ice, and then pour in your active listening honey syrup, lemon juice, and gin. Fasten the lid and shake, shake, shake.
Being back in-person means being back…in-person. You now have to physically interact and be present in front of everyone. What do you do with your hands? How do you act? Don’t let being in-person shake you. Use these six skills to look and feel more confident:
- Speak up. Level your volume to make sure you’re heard and understood, especially when you are presenting or acting in a leadership role. Being a good communicator means many things, and it all starts with being heard.
- Dress the part. You’re no longer allowed to rock a blazer on top and pajama pants on bottom. Being in person means people are physically seeing you, so present appropriately for whatever setting you’re in.
- Stand still. Avoid fidgeting and no pacing. Find a comfortable position and stay there.
- Pay attention. Put down the computer and turn your phone on Do Not Disturb. During online meetings, many of us are guilty of two tab-ing, of checking emails while pretending to listen to whoever is speaking. In person, you can’t get away with this. So distance yourself from distractions.
- You can never go wrong with a handshake. If you’re introducing yourself and are unsure of the setting, choose what you’re going to do and stick to it. Whether that’s a fistbump or an awkward hug, stand by what you choose – don’t change as it’s happening. But handshakes are pretty universally acceptable.
- Remember to make eye contact. This one just makes sense.
Step Three: Strain and Chill.
Strain your drink and put in a chilled glass. Twist the lemon peel over the cocktail to release some of its oils, then drop it in. Enjoy.
You’ve made your drink and now it’s time to sit back and relax.
Adjusting back to in person interactions is hard, not just logistically but socially and emotionally. Our social muscles are not what they used to be, and exercising them feels more laborious than ever. Sometimes you just need quiet time
Rest should be a priority during this time. Transitioning back into in-person can be exhausting. Here are 3 ways to incorporate rest into your routine:
- Block extra time after an in-person event to both commute (yea, that’s a thing again) and to decompress.
- Take a break while in-person. Find a quiet corner and take 10-15 minutes to listen to some music, a podcast, even a meditation.
- Play hooky! Pick one day in the next month or so to take off. Extra points if it’s after you complete a big project.
Above all, focus on your needs as we begin to bee together again.
Finally, Sip and Reflect on Your Return to In-Person Work Prep Plan
Getting back into in-person work is hard, but if you stick to the basics, you’ll get through it. Using active listening and good physical skills helps the adjustment period, and remembering to take your rest is crucial as you embark on this chapter.
Always remember that if you feel awkward, so does everyone else. We’re all adjusting back into being in person, and it’s weird for everyone. Lean into it and don’t be afraid to just go for it.
You’ve gotten back into in person interactions and now it’s time to sit back and relax. Preferably with a chilled bev.