March marked the official one-year mark of the pandemic, and “What a year(longer!!)!” is an understatement. Mixed emotions certainly seem par for the course. Some of the tracks I’m hearing a lot include feeling equal parts exhausted and hopeful about the future, feeling completely disconnected and yet also unwilling to connect via another video call, and feeling very ready for *normal* life, and still not wanting to go back exactly how things were pre-pandemic.

 

We're talking about the very real re-entry anxiety experienced by so many across the professional world, anxiety which, in part, is sparked by feeling a great sense of uncertainty about the future, and thus how to step forward into it. It’s a lot. This is why we have to focus on controlling what we can, and one key item in this category is our communication. 

 

With so much in flux, it’s more vital than ever to get empowered and hone our communication skills. In addition to mitigating anxiety and stress, clear and empowered communication is one excellent way to uphold our boundaries and keep professional (and personal!) relationships on track and healthy, which only serves to boost effectiveness and productivity. The very definition of a win-win, to my mind!

 

Here are some strategies to get you started:

 

Assume nothing.

In our increasingly digital work worlds, it's so easy to skip over details, to take things for granted, and to make assumptions about meaning. The result? We head down a wild spiral of misunderstandings. File this under unnecessary self-inflicted wounds, because it's simple to ask for clarifications. Unclear generally on your company's return to office policy? Ask! Confused specifically about expectations? Ask! So often things that are murky can be resolved with short conversations. Now is not a time to hold back.

 

Use your words.

Literally! Remember to respond, and not to react. Like I said, navigating re-entry, whether working from home or back in the office can have a pressure cooker effect. So if something happens that’s a problem, either big or small, use your words. TALK to the person about what went down, how it landed with you, and what would work better. If you need a moment to figure all that out: SAY THAT. 

 

Under-personalize.

If ever there was a time to practice a skill I coach regularly, it’s to constantly remind yourself: “This is not about you.” Every single thing that’s come our way this past year or so has been riddled with uncertainty, fear, doubt, anxiety, and the like, and I have observed this to be continuing among the teams I work with. There hasn’t been a time in recent history when the undercurrent of our lives is shared so universally. So pause. Take a breath. Meet the intensity that’s coming your way with grace and kindness.

 

Taking control of what you can doesn’t have to be sweeping and grand, or even overly difficult. In so many ways it boils down to how well and how clearly you are communicating. Empowered communication is about finding ways to seek clarification as necessary, to articulate your boundaries, and to manage your reactivity in order to stay the course. And framed this way, as an opportunity to control what you can, managing re-entry anxiety becomes much simpler.

 

This article was written in partnership with wiseHer - a technology platform that provides on-demand expert advice for small businesses and women to accelerate their business or career.  Shoshanna's wiseHer profile