Lake Norman Counselors

Human Connection in the Age of Social Distancing

Hello, my name is Jamie, and I am an Extrovert.

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a “big E” Extrovert. Like 98th percentile on the Myers-Briggs, would not do well alone on a desert island, Extrovert. Rather than being alone, I’d probably end up pulling a “Tom Hanks” and making my own Wilson to have someone to talk to…

I was the kid in school that was constantly getting in trouble for talking. Once in middle school, my English teacher separated my best friend and I for talking. She put us at opposite ends of the classroom – as far apart as humanly possible. And we still got in trouble because she was insistent that we were “communicating nonverbally” with each other… we denied it, but we totally were. So I’ve been finding ways to overcome social distancing for more than two decades now.

When I hear words like “social distancing” and “quarantine” – I look at it as a personal challenge. Was I heartbroken about my social limitations at first? Sure. But the good news for my other extroverted friends out there, is that there’s plenty of ways to connect from home!

Human connection, feelings of love and belonging, social support, fun, and community are fundamental human needs.

And for my introvert friends that think this is a godsend – let me reason with you for one second. Please hear me out. I totally understand that you recharge alone. And I’m really glad that you’re ahead of the game on this whole “work from home,” “the back porch is now considered eating out,” “pajamas are acceptable day time wear” world we now live in. If anything, please take the lead on teaching your extrovert friends about indoor hobbies – we have very few of those!

But as much as you might resist, introvert friends, connecting with the outside world is still important for your mental and emotional health. Maybe more now than before. Let’s take a look at our fundamental and basic needs as human beings:

In case you missed my last article, we’re supposed to be considering this quarantine and stay-at-home order the new normal. And if you haven’t been to the grocery store lately, we can’t provide for our basic needs at the moment. So Physiological and Safety needs have a couple strikes against them at the moment… there’s only so much we can do about that at the moment. I can’t control when the next shipment of toilet paper or Lysol wipes is coming in. I can’t control the spread of this disease.

However, I can completely work on the Love & Belonging category!

So there’s two important factors to consider here: personality and love language(s). Both are crucial to understand about yourself and those closest to you to form deep and meaningful connections. First, make a list of the people who are most important to you: your significant other, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, pets, Starbucks baristas, etc. Do you know if each of these individuals is an introvert or extrovert?

An important note: This does NOT have any correlation to how outgoing or shy someone is. That’s a bad stereotype. Extroverts energize by being around other people and tend to externally process information (they make lists, they “think out loud” to themselves, they like to have a sounding board and talk through a decision). Introverts tend to charge by themselves and internally process information (if you ask them a question – they just give you an answer… not their entire thought process on how they got there).

If you’re really unsure, take the 16 personalities quiz which is a FREE assessment that will tell you! We all have the time… what else are you doing? Now, each of the scores is rated on a spectrum. Some people might be 50/50. So you’re a little bit of both. If you’re close to that 50% mark, it might be worth looking at two profiles (say ESFJ and ISFJ).

Now that you’ve figured out the personality portion of the equation. It’s time to discuss the Love Languages. Time for another quiz!! (Yes. Another Quiz. Seriously, Karen, what else are you doing?) Take the Love Language Quiz to see what your primary and secondary languages are and then ask your significant other and closest friends to take it as well. It’s important that you not only know your language, but theirs as well. Because here’s the interesting thing about the love languages, we often give the love that we most want to receive. It’s only natural, it is our native language after all.

What does that mean? As an example, one of my top languages is verbal affirmations (compliments or nice words). So the assumption is that because I like compliments, everyone else must like compliments too, right? So I often give the love that I most want to receive. I tend to be very complimentary.

Well, just because I speak French (verbal affirmations) doesn’t mean everyone else does. My best friend is a gift giver. She’s speaking Spanish. We’re obviously not speaking the same language. One of my favorite stories to tell is when I asked her to be my Maid of Honor, and I wrote her this beautiful card about how she’s like a sister to me, and having her next to me at my wedding will be so meaningful, blah blah blah. Now, I’m verbal affirmations – I save shit like that forever. I have a whole drawer full of every card and note and nice email I’ve ever received. But I come over to her house the next day, literally the day after I’ve given her this beautiful and meaningful card – and IT. IS. IN. THE. TRASH. Can you believe that?

I take it out out of the trash, dust off the coffee grounds – completely appalled. She literally looks at me, reaches in the trash slowly, and asks, “do I need to keep the envelope too?” I stormed out of there so fast… the nerve!

See, for her, the envelope with her name on it, meant as much as the card with all of my beautiful and kind words. Zero. That’s because it’s not her love language. It’s mine. Now I’ll be damned if that card isn’t sitting on her dresser to this day (mostly because I think she’s scared to throw it away due to my last reaction). But you can see the miscommunication that can so easily happen when two people are speaking two different languages.

So as a general rule – COVID-19 or not – in order to connect and truly understand the people in your life, and to avoid hurt feelings, you need to know if you’re dealing with an introvert or extrovert, what love languages you speak, and what languages you need to be speaking to the important people in your life.

The Five Love Languages:

  1. Verbal Affirmations
  2. Gift Giving
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

Once you know what your love languages are, it’s important to define what your language means to you and give your partner/family/friends examples rather than have them guess or assume (that tends to end badly). For some, quality time is watching TV together, for others that is definitely not classified as quality time – so it’s important to be clear about your expectations and needs.

Good news: If your love languages are verbal affirmations or gift giving, these are easily done over long distances! There’s many ways that these needs can be met while still maintaining social distancing guidelines. Express your needs for communication, preferred methods of contact, and what is most meaningful to you for the most fulfilling connection with your loved ones.

Could be tricky: Depending on the circumstances, if your love languages are acts of service or quality time, these could be a little harder to fulfill. You might need to get creative! Or temporarily rely on a secondary love language to help meet your needs for connection. While virtual connection is better than nothing, it’s definitely not the same as spending time with someone. So if you do feel it’s safe, building your “immunity community” and making an effort to get in that quality time will be crucial to your mental and emotional health. Acts of services also usually rely on some sort of contact, so creativity will be key here as well. This will certainly be easier for those of you living within family units.

Blatant violation of social distancing: It’s a rough time to be a physical touch person. If you have a partner and you are both healthy and being mindful of safety protocols if/when you interact in the community, then hopefully this need will continue to be met. But as our community continues to face increased threat of quarantine, sickness, and social isolation – this will certainly be difficult. Again, relying on a secondary language will be helpful in feeling connected and meeting your emotional needs.

Learning more about your personality and love languages will hopefully lead to more insights about your needs for meaningful and fulfilling connection, which you can then communicate to those closest to you. Likewise, asking friends and family about their preferences will hopefully lead to deeper, more meaningful, and reciprocal relationships.

It is crucial to our mental and emotional health that we find ways to stay connected. Isolation and loneliness feed anxiety and depression. Human connection, feelings of love and belonging, social support, fun, and community are fundamental human needs. It’s important to find ways to stay healthy and safe, but to also stay connected to your support system during this stressful time. Jump over to the second part of this blog entry: Human Connection in the Age of Social Distancing Part II for practical steps and suggestions!

Photo by David Grunfeld • NOLA News

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