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Tips for Talking About the Pandemic When You Socialize

Now that some restrictions have eased and the world is opening back up, you may find yourself struggling to reach out or reconnect with people.

After so many of us spent a long period of time at home, it’s understandable to feel a bit nervous about socializing in person again. You may feel as if you’ve forgotten how to interact with others in public or find the mental effort of having a conversation a bit exhausting. What did we use to talk about anyway?

Social anxiety symptoms significantly increased during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a 2021 study. For those of us who already felt uncomfortable socializing, the extra time spent in isolation may be causing us to expect the worst or avoid social situations altogether.

Finding some common ground for a discussion can help you plant the seeds of connection.

If you’re wondering what to say at an event or get-together, try something like, “I don’t know about you, but I’m taking this new normal one day at a time.”

Here, we cover how to start or continue a conversation with icebreaker questions about how people have been spending their time during the pandemic. Plus, we include some tips for what to say to someone who has different views from yours.

Connect With Common Ground Questions

Pocket with chat bubblesThe coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to go through something much larger than ourselves. Not since the 1940s have so many people experienced the same far-reaching, life-changing event, even if how we experienced it wasn’t exactly the same. (We’ll talk more about these differences later.)

The universal nature of the pandemic makes it a rich resource for finding new ways to connect with one another. Asking people how they are adapting to the changing times can open the door for a possible connection — or deepen an existing one.

Pandemic icebreakers to try:

  • Has the pandemic made you reprioritize something in your life? For me, I vowed to travel to see family more often.
  • Last year I tried baking homemade bread. Did you take up any new hobbies?
  • I read that puzzles are super popular again. How did you spend your time indoors during lockdown?
  • Have you started any fitness activities at home? Tell me, how do you stick to them? I need some helpful hints!
  • Did you experience any changes with your job because of the pandemic?
  • What’s the biggest aspect of your life that changed because of the pandemic?
  • Do you have any pets? What surprised you the most about becoming a pet parent?

Worried you’ll freeze up? Listening to someone’s response with empathy and an open mind will help keep your conversation flowing. Practicing mindfulness can also help you focus on what the other person is saying and understand where that person is coming from.

What to Say If Tensions Flare

Another reason social anxiety is on the rise? The pandemic revealed how far apart people are on how best to handle the health crisis. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid a conversation that may touch on potentially sensitive topics like mask mandates.

If a discussion gets heated — someone has strong feelings against wearing masks in public or wants to attend a large gathering — you can lessen the emotional charge by validating how they are feeling, rather than how they are behaving.

Say “I totally get wanting to have a social life that feels normal.” or “I know what you mean — it feels so strange these days.”

It may also help to clarify what the person means by reflecting back to them what they’ve said.

“It sounds like you’re needing some ways to connect with others and have some fun. Is that right?”

Finally, you can always change the subject by asking a question on another topic. A good question to always have in your back pocket: “Tell me, what do you like to do in your spare time? I’m always interested in learning more about people’s hobbies.”

Icebreakers for Group Gatherings

Sharpen your social skills for the return of after-hours work functions, neighborhood potlucks, and other social events with these fun questions and games.


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