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We've All Forgotten How To Talk To Our Colleagues

We've All Forgotten How To Talk To Our Colleagues

We don't even know how to discuss the weather anymore.

Making small talk is an essential part of office life.

'How was your weekend?'

'It's so cold outside.'

'Did you change your hair?!'

Luckily, us Brits are very good at small talk. In fact, a study from 2018 showed that we actually love talking (moaning) about the weather. The average Brit spends four and a half months of their lives doing just that.

But it seems like 18 months of doing nothing but talking to our partners, housemates, cats or four walls has had an alarming affect on our expert small talk abilities.

We regret to inform you that we've all forgotten how to do it.

Many workers are returning to the office (
Shutterstock)

A survey commissioned by LinkedIn found workers under 34 believe they have lost the ability to small talk. Some 71 per cent of those surveyed revealed they've forgotten how to conduct themselves in a workplace environment, while nearly two thirds said their ability to make conversation in the office had been affected since the pandemic.

It's not surprising really, considering we're out of practice. Virtual meetings and messenger apps are a very different way of communicating and give us way more space to think (and overthink) about everything we say and do.

So what can we do about it? We spoke to Health and Wellbeing Expert Stephanie Taylor, from StressNoMore, who explained exactly what's going on, and how we can brush up on our small talk skills.

"While some are overjoyed about a return to normality and the chance to once again separate their personal and professional lives, others are struggling, and it's not because they are anxious about what this means for their careers, but their interactions with co-workers," Stephanie told Tyla.

"While it's normal to feel nervous about being thrown back into a professional social situation, where small talk and professionalism is paramount, social anxiety disorder affects your ability to perform everyday interactions.

Many workers have been at home for 18 months (
Shutterstock)

"But why are some experiencing this when returning to the office? Well, work can be an extremely anxiety-provoking stimulus due to constant evaluation, expectations, responsibilities and pressure to perform well."

Stephanie explained there are ways to ease the anxiety and start working on your communication skills.

"With the stress caused by the demand from employers to return to the office environment, it's best to be honest and open with your employer," says Stephanie.

"Start a conversation with them, expressing your concerns about returning to the office. There is likely something they can do to ease your concerns, whether that's by agreeing set days to work from the office or regular chats to air out your anxieties.

"Eliminate negative thoughts: Keep those negative thoughts at bay by reminding yourself of all the reasons why you liked your job and your office environment in the first place. Write down all the reasons why you liked it pre-pandemic and focus on those. This will reflect not only in social situations but professional ones, too.

"Dress for success: If you’re feeling confident in your appearance, this will shine through. Ditch the tracksuit bottoms and jumpers and give your work wardrobe a little refresh. A cute outfit might even be a conversation starter, which makes easing into a day in the office a lot easier.

"Ditch the headphones: You might be used to working all day to the sound of your favourite playlists, but this can be seen as unsociable if you're not giving your peers the chance to chat to you at all.

Apparently we're struggling with small talk since returning to the office (
Shutterstock)

"Take yourself out of your comfort zone: Talk to people you’ve never spoken to before, not just your immediate team. Ask questions and listen and learn from your colleagues! You never know their insight into your personal or professional life might help you in ways you would have never imagined.

"Be observant: Take in your surroundings and observe your colleagues in social situations. Is there someone’s confidence you admire, or are there others having confidence issues just like you? With the former, you can learn from these people, while the latter might be someone with whom you can share your concerns and boost your confidence skills alongside as you settle back into the mix.

"Observant people are generally better at grounding themselves, have better focus and are more engaged in conversations. Being present and listening to others when in the office will help boost your confidence and perhaps even your performance at work."

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: Life