Peopling Is Hard
Peopling Is Hard
Dear Tacit,

Why is “peopling” so hard? It exhausts me to have to be around people these days – emotionally and physically.

Signed: Peopling Is Hard

Dear Peopling Is Hard,

You are not alone!  Ever since the COVID crisis, people have been reporting decreased levels of patience, energy and desire for spending time around others.  Our habits changed – the way we thought about things changed – and our sense of balance shifted.  This all resulted in an adjustment for many with regard to the stamina they had for being around other people.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong with taking a step back from the “peopling” that you are invited to do.  Keeping our immediate circles smaller can be a healthy alternative to spreading ourselves too thin.  There is great value in slowing down and in picking the things that matter the most, instead of always trying to do everything.  Navigating social interactions and relationships can be challenging, for a variety of reasons:

  1. Individual Differences: People have different personalities, communication styles, and preferences. Managing these differences can be challenging, and can sometimes result in misunderstandings or conflicts (which drain us).
  2. Social Anxiety: Social anxiety (even if it’s not to the degree that it results in a mental health diagnosis) can make socializing stressful and intimidating.  The fear of judgment, rejection, or embarrassment may hinder one’s ability to connect with others.
  3. Communication Skills: Effective communication involves not only expressing oneself but also actively listening and understanding others. Poor communication skills can lead to misinterpretations and strained relationships.  (Many people are good at only part of the communication process.)
  4. Cultural and Social Norms: Cultural and social norms vary widely, and navigating these differences can be challenging. Misunderstandings or unintentional breaches of social norms can create discomfort. (We are in a time when “offence” seems to be a constant perspective.)
  5. Lack of Confidence: Low self-esteem or a lack of confidence (feeling unsure about oneself) may lead to reluctance in expressing thoughts or initiating conversations.
  6. Overthinking and Rumination: Overanalyzing social situations or dwelling on past interactions can make peopling more challenging. It’s essential to find a balance between self-reflection and letting go of unnecessary worries.
  7. Mismatched Expectations: When people have different expectations about a relationship or an interaction, it can lead to disappointment or frustration and make us want to stop trying.
  8. Technology and Social Media: While technology has provided new (and helpful) ways to connect, it can also contribute to feelings of isolation or inadequacy. Comparing oneself to others on social media may negatively impact self-esteem. And connecting via social media can often limit our ability/confidence to know how to also connect in-person.
  9. Life Changes and Transitions: Major life changes, such as moving to a new place, starting a new job, or going through a breakup, can disrupt social connections and make peopling more challenging.

However, rebuilding and maintaining social connections are skills that can be developed/increased over time. Seeking support, practicing effective communication, and gradually exposing oneself to social situations can help ease the challenges associated with peopling. Additionally, being patient and compassionate with oneself and with others is crucial in navigating the complexities of human interactions.

Making social interactions more comfortable and enjoyable involves a combination of self-awareness, communication skills, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Here are some tips to make peopling easier:

Build Self-Confidence:  Focus on your strengths and achievements.  Practice positive self-talk and challenge negative thoughts.  Set smaller and more realistic goals for social interactions and be sure to celebrate the successes.

Improve Communication Skills:  Practice active listening (which involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what others say).  Pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions.  Develop clear and concise ways to express your own thoughts effectively.

Initiate Small Talk:  Start with simple, casual conversations about shared interests, current events, or the surrounding environment.  Ask open-ended questions to encourage more extended and meaningful discussions.  Be genuinely curious about others and show interest in what they are saying.

Be Mindful of Body Language:  Pay attention to your own body language, as well as the signals others are sending.  Get comfortable with open and positive body language to improve the indirect messages you are sending – avoid closed-off gestures like crossed arms, which may signal discomfort or disinterest.

Manage Social Anxiety:  Break down social situations into smaller, more manageable steps.  Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness, to reduce anxiety.  Challenge irrational thoughts and fears related to social interactions.

Set Realistic Expectations:  Understand that not every interaction will be perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes.  Focus on the process of connecting with others rather than aiming for perfection.

Seek Support:  Participate in clubs, classes, or social events related to your interests, so you can meet like-minded individuals.  Shared activities create opportunities for bonding and conversation without the pressure of direct interaction.

Celebrate Progress:  Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements in social situations, no matter how small.  Reflect on positive interactions and use them as motivation to continue improving your peopling skills. (Stop emphasising and replaying the challenges and possible mistakes that you make – this only serves to reinforce the awkwardness and lack of confidence you will feel the next time.)

I want to make quick mention of some terrific local opportunities for supportive peopling – Stronger Together, Men’s Shed, FCSS Group Programs – where you can connect with people who may share similar challenges. Groups like Toastmasters, for example, also provide a great opportunity for connection as well as for communication skill development.

You will have to find the balance that works best for you! “To people or not to people” – that truly is the question!  And every situation needs to be considered on an individual basis.

Take care!

Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at Your answer will be provided confidentially. 

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