By Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach
Let's say you've been sitting on the sidelines for a while and are ready to get back in the game. Here are three examples. These are composites and not real names.
Jennifer had a home business for 3 years which she had to abandon, so she interviewed for jobs and got one in a large office. It was a probationary job and she didn't get hired. She realized she had been at home too long and hadn't been able to adjust quickly enough to the structure, all the people, taking verbal instructions, and doing the necessary socializing while working.
When Don's wife died, he went through a grieving period doing little but working and watching TV for two years. He now is ready to have a social life again. He says he's forgotten all his social skills and "doesn't know where to begin."
Mabel is in her 80s and has just moved to a new town to live near her daughter. She has been visiting over the years so has some friends, but now it's to be her home.
So, we're talking about getting back into the swing of things. How do you do this? Give yourself some graduated experiences, take initiative, get support and stick with it.
Here are 10 tips:
1. Inform close friends and loved ones -- "I'm ready to get out more."
If you have been somewhat reclusive, people will have been giving you "space" and need a "heads-up". Typically they'll be so glad, and they'll pass the word around. "Don is back!!"
2. Take action.
All paths lead to your goal, just take the initiative. Start with people you know well. Call and set a lunch date, dinner and a movie, a quick visit to a local fair; something time-limited.
3. Join some social or religious organizations.
As a former Director of Membership for a Church, it was my job to greet new members, make them feel at home, and then get them into some small group. When I had this position, I could tell some people were taking their first steps out in a while, and we were glad to be there for them.
In Don's case, an Active Singles Group would work well. It's easier to join a group bike riding or kayacking at first than to dance and converse with a single woman.
4. Do some volunteer work.
When I worked with volunteers, more than once people told me they were there to get used to working again, polish some skills, or to meet people.
Volunteer, and don't be shy. I remember one woman who told me, when I assigned her a lonely job, that she was recovering from breast cancer and needed to be around people. We found a job that suited her purposes more. I just needed to be told how to do my job!
5. Go with the attitude that you're observing.
If, for instance, you're trying to remember how to date after 20 years of marriage, you can read books and so forth, but the trick is to get out there. Give yourself permission to be an observer at first. In the group setting, watch how others do it. Learn. Remember. Then apply.
6. Get some support.
Coaching is good for this. It's nice to be able to report in to someone, to get tips, and to get some encouragement. The point is to keep at it.
7. Make your needs known.
Mabel can no longer drive. If she lets people know this, they can offer to drive her, they can think of her when they're going somewhere and offer to pick her up instead of assuming she isn't there because she doesn't want to be.
8. Don't become discouraged.
In fact don't think about "wins" and "losses" at all, because it's all a big win with time. Like riding a bike, it will come back to you.
I remember when I started timidly getting out after my divorce. The first dance I went to, men asked me to dance immediately and I was on the dance floor all night. The next time I went, I only got asked once. I was lucky the more successful time came first. If it happens in the reverse order for you, just remember there will be a next time and it can be totally different.
9. Use the opportunity to address what needs addressing.
Jennifer, who's been at home in sweats with a phone and computer, needs a situation where she works with people face-to-face, where the nonverbal cues are much stronger. And if you haven't worn a shirt, tie, and real shoes for a while, give yourself some lead time.
10. Give yourself lots of rewards along the way.
It will soon become it's own reward, but until then, take action and then give yourself a reward. It won't be long before you're in the swing of things again.
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