By Kent Mulkey

Recently I attended a local networking meeting for senior care professionals. It was my first time, but I knew a few of the roughly 40 people in attendance. I said hello to them and introduced myself to a number of people before the meeting officially started.

Even after what felt like centuries of attending various networking groups and service clubs, I was surprised that NO one introduced themselves to me. That’s right nobody.

It’s not how it used to be in the old days of senior living. At least not in my experience. What happened?

Social Skills Into the Galaxy

This may not be all that profound, but I think the isolation from the pandemic somehow sent our social skills into the galaxy. It seems we forgot how to talk with each other.

Of course, the plethora of Zoom calls certainly made things worse. I was on a Zoom call a couple of weeks ago, meeting with a senior living company. It was very dull, mundane, and boring beyond belief. What I believe is that the people are nice, decent folks. What happened to simple pleasantries at the beginning of a meeting? What happened to smiling? What on earth happened to simple conversation?

Has Zoom turned people into Zombies? Of course, we all know that Zoom is here to stay, and it makes for a very simple solution to conveniently hold meetings, cut down on travel, and increase efficiencies. So, I got to thinking about what may help bring us back to authentic conversation and interacting with each other.

They Deserve a Break

The good news is that more conferences, meetings, and networking events are being held in person. To be fair, this was only the organization’s second live, in-person meeting since the shutdown of 2020 and 2021. They deserve a break from the meeting being awkward for people. At least it was for me.

As far as it depends on me, I will continue to take the initiative to meet and greet people at networking events. Sure, part of that is because I am an almost extreme extrovert.

On the now rare occasion that I lead or attend Zoom calls these days, I will give time for pleasantries and fun at the beginning. It’s how we do it at the weekly Zoom call for the Senior Living Foresight team. I look forward to the weekly calls with Steve and Co. They are fun, conversational, and interesting. I model my interaction on other Zoom calls on what I experienced at SLF meetings. (Zoom meetings are essential for SLF folks, as we are scattered around the country).

Set an Example

Now that the world is opening, do all you can to attend live meetings. See how many people you can introduce yourself to. I have a friend who carries a counter clicker with him at conferences and meetings to see just how many people he can meet and at least have a brief conversation with. Talk with people at Starbucks and in the grocery line.

It’s time to take networking and relationships back to how they used to be. Of all people to set an example, how about we do it as the friendliest and most caring professionals in the world.