Advice and Tips
Will this year’s julebord* be the best ever?
Or do we actually not want to get together in person again? Organizational psychologist Karen Kollien Nygaard offers tips on how to navigate the upcoming julebord season.
This year’s julebord season will soon kick into action – anticipated by some people, dreaded by others. Because how should we behave now that the pandemic is apparently over? Is it okay to hug one another? Can you shake your boss’ hand? And what should you do if you feel that somebody’s getting too close to you?
– We’re social animals who need to be around others, so it’s super important to have in-person social events where we can be in contact with one another again. But it’s also important to remember that not everyone has the same needs in these situations, says organizational psychologist Karen Kollien Nygaard.
For instance, while some people have been longing to greet and hug others once more, others feel it’s a relief to not have to perform these rituals. So they quite naturally hold back a little more in a social situation like a party.
– It can seem like we tolerate less than we did before. For example, there are a lot of people who don’t want to shake hands and hug in the same way like they used to do pre-pandemic, she explains.
Her three tips for navigating this year’s julebord:
- Respect one another’s personal boundaries
Do you notice someone taking a step backwards while you’re talking together, or that you get shoved away when trying to give somebody a hug? For a whole year and a half, we’ve gotten used to keeping our distance and not touching one another; our bodies need awhile to learn that this is allowed again. So if this happens to you, take a step backwards to mirror the other person’s body language, or ask someone first if it’s okay that you hug them.
- Practice self-care
The times we’re living in require that we take care of ourselves. If you feel anxious about being in large crowds, it’s completely okay to speak up about your feelings and even turn down an invitation to a julebord. Not everyone needs the same things, and we move at different speeds, too.
- Show interest in one another If you think a situation’s a little off, ask yourself, «What’s happening here?», and then show interest in what other people are saying. Now that we’ve been spending a lot of time alone, we haven’t been challenged in the same way as before, so lots of strong opinions have been formed on all kinds of topics where we’re either very for or very against something.
Difficult for our bodies to detach themselves
The psychologist describes the time we’re living in as «acute post-pandemic».
Just like the death of a loved one or other major life events, the pandemic has affected us all physically, which requires that we take extra good care of ourselves. Because even if the thinking part of our brain understands that the worst part of the pandemic is over, our bodies are still negatively influenced by pandemic-related stress.
– We’ve been living in the middle of a very serious situation for a really long time, and this has affected us a lot. Our bodies’ «bill» is now coming due. Some people think they’re just suffering from a bit of anxiety, but we’ve all actually been living through an incredibly stressful time. So many of us have a damaged nervous system and need to rest and heal. While the thinking part of our brain can detach from our situation, it’s harder for our bodies to do this, Karen explains.
That’s why she feels it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to attend their julebord this year but can choose for themselves whether they want to or not. Companies should also make it clear that everyone is welcome to attend their party; at the same time, they should show a lot of understanding if somebody turns down their invitation, she advises.
– It’s also smart to choose a venue where it’s possible for people to keep their distance from one another. We all need a little personal space and the chance to walk out of a room and get some air. This isn’t the year to sit around the table for hours on end, either We need to be able to get together without feeling stuck because this’ll make it easier for people to want to attend a julebord.
Show interest and ask questions
Generally speaking, we’re in worse shape in social situations than we used to be pre-pandemic, and we tire out faster. That’s why the psychologist advises everyone to be extra mindful of/interested in one another.
This means asking if you think the other person’s acting a little strangely and/or speaking up if someone gets too close to you. And if you shake someone’s hand who clearly doesn’t like it, apologize to them. Think of it like stepping on somebody else’s toes.
– Our bodies are still in quarantine mode. They want greater distance from other bodies; after all, they’ve been practicing it for a year and a half now. So approach each other more slowly and see how things go. Sensing resistance from another individual is like getting a distress signal. At this moment it’s easy to think that this other person doesn’t like you, but don’t be offended. Instead, follow their lead and take a step backwards as well.
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