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Strangers When We Meet

Bob Goldman on

If you thought it was strange to confine yourself to your home for eight long months, refusing to interact with anyone who wasn't on a Zoom screen, get ready for an experience in strangeness the likes of which you haven't seen, well, for eight long months.

I'm talking about working with real people in real life. 3D, baby -- 3-doggone-D.

It was a Bob Morris column in The New York Times that alerted me to the problems.

"Feeling Socially Awkward? Even Extroverts Are a Little Rusty" is the title of the piece, which did hit home with me. If social butterflies were having trouble, what hope was there for social snails?

Morris became aware of the rust on his own social skills after going face to face -- or, hopefully, mask to mask -- with a business associate. After a pleasant conversation, Morris realizing he had "not introduced him to the friend standing next to me, a breach I would not normally commit."

Awkward incidents like this can easily be corrected with friends, but what happens when you're back in the business world? If your boss fails to recognize you for a week or two, it probably means nothing. If your boss fails to recognize you for a month or two, it's time to find another boss.

 

Or maybe not.

"Even the most social people right now feel like awkward eighth graders attending a school dance for the first time," says Samantha Boardman, a Manhattan psychiatrist.

I'm not a psychiatrist, but I can offer a quick refresher course in how to behave when you step out of the deep freezer and step into the business world you left behind.

Working at work is different than working at home.

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