Social skills are like muscles: you use them, or you lose them. That’s why as more people get vaccinated and offices start to reopen, people are reporting that they feel socially rusty, anxious, awkward, and even socially hungover.

The good news is that since social skills atrophy like a muscle, they can also be developed, stretched, and toned like one. It’s just a matter of intentional practice. At TalentSmartEQ, training social skills is something we’ve researched and refined for over twenty years. Our data from nearly two million people shows that people highly skilled in the social side of EQ outperform those who aren’t by a large margin. Our data also shows that people who practice EQ strategies can improve their emotional intelligence quickly and start to enjoy the benefits.

In response to our readers and clients who have shared that they’re struggling to adjust socially as their offices reopen (to varying degrees), we did some digging into our research and writing and surfaced seven of our best strategies to help you dust off your social cobwebs and make a smooth transition back to the office.

Be curious. Showing interest in others is a simple strategy that makes the people around you feel good. Instead of trying to plot out what you’re going to say next, listen to the person who’s speaking, and seek to learn more with curious questions. Don’t be surprised when you chuckle over the fact that everyone has been doing the same things for this past year—watching tv, cooking, and finally seeing their family. You’ll be surprised how much you learn this way and how much people will appreciate you for your genuine interest.

Plan ahead for social gatherings. It might sound a bit forced to plan ahead, but it actually sets you up to come across as more smooth, not less, because you’ll feel prepared instead of anxious. Next time you’re dreading an upcoming social event, list out people who will be there and things you want to talk to them about. Write out some questions (Upcoming travel plans?), topics (New hobbies discovered?), and thoughts that will serve as a handy jumping off point to your conversations. Writing out this list will help you manage your anxiety and even channel it in a constructive way.

Greet people by name. When people hear their name, it literally lights up a different part of their brain and feels as good as a compliment. Using people’s names to start a conversation sends the message that you see them as an individual and aren’t just going through the motions of pleasantry.

Practice the art of listening. Harvard researchers found that when people talk about themselves, it feels as rewarding as food or money. So, if you’re looking to improve your social skills, you may want to focus less time trying to be the funniest, most outgoing person in the room and more time being a good listener. Listen for feeling, meaning, and anything going on below the surface. Show engaged body language and ask good questions. If an interesting thought or question comes to you after the fact, follow up later or even another day.

Remember the little things that pack a punch. Just like greeting people by name, connecting with others doesn’t have to be a long conversation. One small comment, question, or gesture that shows you care can be just as impactful, if not more. Remembering to ask your colleague about their trip over the weekend or their kid’s baseball game can go a long way to show you care and make people feel it.

Use positive body language. So much of how you make someone feel is about how you come across, not what you say. According to research, our emotions are even contagious. They literally spread from person to person in real time. By paying close attention to your body language and keeping it positive, you can spread positivity to the people around you. Upright posture, facing the people who are speaking, uncrossing your arms, and speaking with an upbeat tone of voice will all help you spread positivity and connect with the people around you.

Use touch to connect. Using touch in an appropriate and well-timed way releases oxytocin and makes people feel good. Something as simple as a handshake or a high five is connective and personal.

From Insights to Action. One of the most challenging things about reopening is that it feels overwhelming. To minimize feeling overwhelmed and maximize your focus, pick just one of the above strategies. Practice it daily and also check your progress daily by asking yourself how your encounters went and what you’ll do tomorrow. One strategy carefully applied for a week or two and monitored will take you a lot further than sloppily applying all seven at once.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s products and services, contact TalentSmartEQ at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/.