Practice makes perfect, and communication skills are no different. Our tip today for returning to social interactions is to practice relationships skills often. You don’t necessarily have to practice these skills in person – staying in touch with loved ones virtually, but being intentional about those interactions, can help you begin to rebuild social skills that may have been lost in the past year.
Depending on your level of comfort regarding face-to-face interactions, you can choose to start engaging with the people you feel most comfortable with first – such as close friends and family members.
Practicing for a limited amount of time, especially at first, can help you build confidence about social situations that may worry you. Setting up a 30-minute coffee date with one close friend, or grabbing lunch with a family member, can be a great way to ease into in-person interactions. You can slowly build up those interactions as your comfort level increases.
Getting back into a “normal” routine will be difficult for all of us, and taking small steps – whatever that looks like for you – will ensure that it is a positive, comfortable, and safe experience for everyone involved.
An important part of easing back into face-to-face social interactions is to avoid assumptions about the comfort level of others and aim to ask questions to understand where they may be in the journey of going back to “normal.”
What feels safe and comfortable to one person may be completely different than what feels safe and comfortable to others. For this reason, err on the side of asking questions, such as, “Do you feel comfortable going for a walk outside?” or, “What are your thoughts on getting lunch on Saturday?”
Aiming for empathy and understanding, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the other person’s approach, will help you continue to rebuild the social skills that may have gotten lost in this past year. Remembering to be honest about where you are will help the other person feel connected to you as well, even if it means that you have to postpone that get-together, or change the nature of the gathering.
When returning to face-to-face interactions after the year we have all faced, it can be difficult to overcome feelings of discomfort, awkwardness, and anxiousness. Our second tip in easing this discomfort of returning to a somewhat normal routine is to acknowledge that your boundaries and limits in relationships may have shifted in the past year, and that the same may have happened for the people you love and interact with the most.
Maybe your energy around social interactions has shifted in that you are more extroverted, or desire to interact with others has increased. Or, maybe you have found that you need less social interactions in order to feel at peace and content. Maybe you aren’t sure how you feel and you need more time to adjust before you jump right back into a “normal” routine of in-person interactions.
Wherever you may be in the journey of returning to a normal routine, it’s okay to honor your feelings about that process and to give yourself permission to move at your own pace. Setting boundaries with loved ones can help you ease into social interactions in a way that feels right to you. Honoring the boundaries that others set is equally as important in resuming a normal and healthy social life after over one year of isolation and social distancing.
It’s okay if your boundaries and comfort level changes with time. Reflecting on your needs and comfort levels in relationships can help ensure that you return to normal in a way that works for you and your family.
When COVID impacted us all over one year ago, many of us could never imagine getting used to our remote routines, but now, Zoom meetings, Facetime dates, and virtual happy hours have become a staple of everyday life. We’ve adjusted to different ways of making connections and bonding with loved ones, and we’ve redefined what it means to spend quality time.
Now, as many people ease back into some form of normalcy – it can be difficult to return to social situations without feeling awkward, uncertain, or even a bit anxious about how to interact with others in this “new normal.”
Through HRI, we are sharing important tips to help you regain those social skills and communication strategies that may have gotten lost or rusty over the past year. Whatever your level of comfort is regarding interacting with others, we hope that you will find these strategies and tips useful for reconnecting after over one year of limited in-person interactions with others.
Our first tip is to embrace the discomfort or the awkwardness of going back to normal social settings. Odds are that just about everyone is anxious or nervous about some aspect of in-person interactions, whether it is at the office or at your next family gathering. If you’re someone who uses humor as a way to connect, consider making a joke about how you’re feeling. Or if you are someone who tends to address the elephant in the room, you can consider telling the other person exactly how you feel (“Well, I’m feeling anxious about being here!”). If these strategies don’t sound like you, then you can consider asking the other person how they may be feeling as a way to open the lines of communication.
However you approach those initial in-person interactions, it is important to remember that others may be feeling the same way. Using that common bond as a way to connect can help you overcome the initial discomfort of going back to interacting with people face-to-face.
The Healthy Relationships Initiative is springing into Spring with two great training programs!
On May 11, join us on Zoom from 9AM-11AM for our Journey of Foster Parenting training program. Participants will hear from foster parents as they discuss their experiences and insights gained while navigating the foster care system and becoming a foster parent. This professional training is applicable for those who work in mental health and/or social services fields, as well as those who may be interested in becoming a foster parent. Tickets are free. To register for this program, visit https://www.healthyrelationshipsinitiative.org/events.
On May 14, HRI along with the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships will hold the Responding to Family Violence: Best Practices for Mental Health Professionals training program, presented by HRI and CYFCP Director Dr. Christine Murray, from 9AM to 2PM. Topics covered will include understanding the different forms of family violence, risk factors for abuse, mental health consequences of victimization, and an introduction to treatment approaches. Participants will learn how to identify common features of abusive relationships, understand how mental health services fit within the range of other community resources for victims and survivors, and gain knowledge about how mental health professionals can support impacted clients in the long-term abuse recovery process. The program is applicable for both professionals and students and has been approved for 4 NBCC credit hours, 4 NASW-NC credit hours, and 4 NCASPPB credit hours. In order to earn the appropriate credit hours for this program, you must attend the entire program from 9AM-2PM. Participants will also be required to remain engaged through both the enabling of their camera feature and by engaging in the chatroom throughout the program. Attendance will be taken in order to correctly distribute earned credit hours. Tickets are $75, but UNCG students, staff, and alumni can receive a discounted price. Please register and reserve your ticket at https://healthyrelationshipsinitiative.org/familyviolencetraining.
If you’re a social worker, counselor, therapist, or other mental health or social services professional looking for professional development opportunities, or just interested in learning more about these topics, please consider registering for one of these great training programs sponsored by the Healthy Relationships Initiative this month!
Professional Development Training: Responding to Family Violence
Calling all NC Social Workers, Addictions Specialists, & Counselors — you won’t want to miss this opportunity to earn credit hours!
HRI and the @uncgcyfcp are offering tickets at an extremely competitive price, and discounts are available for UNCG staff, students, and former alumni.
Presented by HRI and CYFCP Director, Dr. Christine Murray, this training will provide an overview of best practices for mental health professionals working with families impacted by violence and abuse.
“Marriage is not about age; it’s about finding the right person.” – Sophia Bush
There is no right age or time to get married or have a long-term committed relationship. Regardless of your timeline, what is most important is that you find the right person — regardless of how old you are or how many times you’ve been there before.
Today, the Healthy Relationships Initiative is recognizing our 2021 Kindness Champions of Guilford County!
These individuals make their community a better place by spreading positivity to the people in their lives through kindness and compassion.
Our first 2021 Kindness Champion of Guilford County is Sonja Frison, who was nominated by a co-worker. According to Sonja Frison’s nominator, what makes Sonja a Kindness Championd is this: “Sonja has worked as a Licensed Psychologist for many years in the field of Juvenile Justice. She is always willing to help and has the patience of a saint. She is a team player and is always willing to lend her time and expertise to a friend or coworker. Sonja has devoted her life to helping others. She is an asset to our community here in Guilford County.”
Thank you, Sonja, for all that you do to make Guilford County a better place!
Our second 2021 Kindness Champion of Guilford County is Stormi Burns, who was nominated by her husband. Stormi Burns’ nominator had this to say about why Stormi is a Kindness Champion: “I may be a little biased, but I’d like to believe that Stormi is a walking light. No matter where she is, light seems to beam from her. She genuinely cares for people and their well-being. By day, she works at a nonprofit called Ready for School, Ready for Life. By hobby, she is always finding a way to do acts of kindness. Stormi is devoted to enriching the lives of others by simply instilling hope through acts of kindness. In 2013, Stormi founded The Sunny Day Project, a pay it forward movement to inspire people to share love, light, and Jesus with others through acts of kindness. Stormi is a true advocate for acts of kindness.”
As a parent with so much life experience, it can be hard to sit back and listen to your teen without pointing out the problem and attempting to give advice. Below are some helpful tips on how to listen carefully and make sure you understand what your teen is trying to say:
Stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. Multitasking may be the most effective way to make use of your time, but when it comes to talking to your teen schedule a special time to listen. This demonstrates to your teen that they have your undivided attention and may encourage them to disclose more and ask questions.
Display attentive body language. Demonstrate non-verbally that you are there to listen. Look them in the eyes, lean forward slightly, nod encouragingly. Your body language says the most, and so will theirs. Observing your teen can provide insight into how they feel.
Don’t interrupt them. It’s hard not to jump in with opinions and questions when your teen is talking, however, letting them finish can help uncover underlying messages and problems. Decide to be interested in what they are saying not what advice you have to offer.
Restate and summarize their words. Restating helps ensure that you heard your teen correctly. If you didn’t, it gives them the chance to re-explain. It also lets them know that you are following everything they are trying to say.
Reflect their emotions and never ridicule. React sensitively to what your teen shares with you. While something they say may seem trivial to you, in their world every event is big. If you don’t agree with something tell them in an open and understanding manner so that it doesn’t push them away.
Prepare for moments of honesty and vulnerability. While talking, your teen may break down and share everything going on with them personally. Give them all time and support they need to share. These moments may be rarer for some teens than others.
Don’t follow-up with a lecture. It is difficult enough for teens to share their life with adults without being worried about being confronted immediately afterward.
Join the Healthy Relationships Initiative and several experts from UNC Greensboro and the Guilford County Family Justice Center on Thursday, June 3 from 9:00-10:00 am! During this program, we will address how to talk to young children about gun violence, and how to use Sesame Street in Communities resources to facilitate those conversations. This program will take place on Facebook Live. Click here on June 3 to attend this free conversation!