Micro-rejections and Other Awkwardness

My friend Robin recently brought my attention to an interview between Brené Brown and Priya Parker about gathering again, post-Pandemic. We aren’t post-pandemic yet, of course, but thanks to the vaccines, we are finding ways of gathering, like our outdoor worship services.

In their conversation, Parker talked about “micro-rejections” and how they’re going to be common as we begin gathering again. We’re in this weird time where we don’t know what the right manners are, and probably have different comfort levels. So we stumble and bumble:

  • One person goes in for a hug, the other person offers an elbow
  • You stick out your hand, the other person backs up
  • Your friend invites you to an indoor gathering, you don’t feel comfortable with that yet
  • You invite someone to meet you for coffee, that doesn’t feel safe to them. You understand, but you also feel a little rejected, maybe wondering if the other person thinks you’re not using good judgment

And on top of all that, we’re often wearing masks, and we can’t see each other’s facial expressions. Is the other person smiling? Frowning?

“There’s going to be SO MUCH awkwardness,” Parker says. “And I think also part of this time is that we are physiologically retraining ourselves to enter…your body still leans back because for months, you’ve been trained to lean back or step back.”

So what’s the solution?

Parker says that when things are unsure and awkward, we need to make the implicit, explicit. With every invitation, we need to be clear about what will happen, so that others can make the decisions they need to make.

We’re trying to do that at Live Oak, make it so that there’s no guessing. We expect everyone 12 and up who comes to worship on Sunday to be vaccinated. (All ages are welcome, to be clear.) Everyone is expected to wear a mask. Everyone needs to bring their own blanket and chairs.

And part of this yet-again-new-normal means that we won’t have all the information at once, but we can communicate other information as we have it. For instance, last Sunday we discovered that there are some intrepid explorers in the form of ants who like bare feet. So, along with “wear a mask” (required), we can now recommend for your own sake “wear closed-toe shoes” (optional).

And … we need to once again be careful about wandering into “skull cinema” — assuming things about what the other person is thinking. (We still have some of those bracelets in the Live Oak mail room if you need a reminder.)

Once again, we are back to the issue of grace. And kindness. I don’t believe we can go wrong right now by extending “too much” of either.

Embrace the awkward!