“Wow, how have you been?” This greeting is coming up in all kinds of contexts and especially at holiday time when we are chatting with people we haven’t seen since before we ever heard the words “Covid-19.”
I find myself mildly overwhelmed in these situations, not quite sure how to respond. Where do I start? What is the person actually asking? How far back does this catch-up need to go?
Despite the stress, I also enjoy and am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with people in my life and community. So I’ve been digging into my toolbox of positive strategies for simple ways to ease back into conversation and relationship with folks who I haven’t seen since “the before times.”
1) Joke About It
Humor is a powerful social balm, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious in a social situation, chances are you’re not alone. So I like to name the feeling explicitly, with a self-deprecating smile on my face: “How am I? Do I even remember how to answer that question? What year is it again?!”
2) Stick with the Here and Now
We don’t need to pick up where we left off with our friends, neighbors and even family members. Dial back the pressure to fill in your conversation partner with the nitty-gritty of the past two years by easing into chatter about what’s going on with you today, here in the present moment. This can help you sidestep revisiting the stress of earlier days of the pandemic as well as ground you in a conversation starter that can move organically from there.
3) Answer a Question with a Question
You might just not have the energy to summarize “how it’s all been going” since spring 2020—and that’s ok. Try gently passing the baton back to the person you’re speaking with, asking them how they are and have been. Let their response give you a moment to find your way into the conversation.
4) Name Hard Things
Living an authentically positive life means having the courage to name difficult things out loud. If you trust the person you’re catching up with, don’t shy away from mentioning challenges you’ve faced since you last visited—losses you’re mourning, health issues you’re living with, emotional struggles you’re working through. Who knows—by sharing the hard things in your life, even in a general way, you might empower your companion to open up with their own challenges, enabling you to support each other.
How have you started a conversation with people you haven’t seen since before the pandemic? Have you found it challenging, or seamless?