From Social Distancing to Social Awkwardness: How to get back into socializing without embarrassment

Here in Czechia, Europe, we don’t doubt masks. We do what’s needed to protect the vulnerable.

But in the past few days, a particular relaxed manner has been in the air. It goes with the optimism brought about by good numbers and the resulting, lifted restrictions.

As we ease into this new state of living, we must carefully re-enter our social lives. Each family weighs its own options depending on the risk factors they’re dealing with.

It’s exciting! The thought of seeing our friends again, taking our little ones to the playground, and spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon at a coffee house leaves us humming with anticipation.

Still, caution is in order.

If you’re in the US, Canada, or other countries that are easing restrictions, it makes sense to prepare for just how different your new reality will be. I hope that my mishaps will save you from making your own.

If you’re in Asia-Pacific and South America, please hold on; you will see the sun and breathe fresh air again.

If you’re alongside me, here, in Europe, you may find yourself chuckling, and/or want to contribute with your own experience and learnings. Please do!

Why the caution? What’s wrong with re-socializing?

Everything’s wrong, really. Or, at least, it seems that nothing we knew before can be taken for granted. You may find yourself, inexplicably, and suddenly unsure, not knowing what the right thing to do is in what used to be ordinary situations.

I can tell you that my experience of meeting other people again for the first time left me feeling like a mole that just surfaced in a sunlit park for the first time.

For example, I wanted to shake the hand of a friend I hadn’t seen for five years. I was clearly told “no,” and eyebrows were raised to express the disapproval of my lack of experience in bumping elbows.

Shame on me. And the disinfectant in my pocket didn’t help my case.

That same day, I discovered that my friend had been battling cancer for a decade! Oh NOOOOO. I had no idea.

A week later I met, the same friend on another occasion. She extended her hand to me. Of course, I know what to do! While I awkwardly extended my elbow, she shook hands with everyone else.

Puzzling, isn’t it? What could have possibly happened in a week that changed how careful she was when meeting others?

In the outer world, a week went by and nothing has changed, but in the inner world, in the world of our perceptions, things have changed dramatically with the lifted restrictions.

This means our usually stable social norms are now fluid, which can bring stress or, in the best case, just like in my example, embarrassment.

To help you, I offer some of the other things I learned over the last few weeks. Perhaps my embarrassment will save you from yours.

  • Don’t try to make sarcastic comments with your mask on! The cover hides your facial expressions and may muffle the inflection of your voice. You may be misunderstood. (I speak from experience.)
  • Give yourself time to get comfortable socializing. Don’t rush into it if you don’t feel like it, and, if you do, don’t expect things to feel the same as “before.”
  • Don’t feel obliged to follow the pack or to do what’s legal in any particular snapshot of time. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in situations where others don’t have to do what you feel is right. That’s ok. Do what feels right for you!
  • If you feel unable to keep up with the speed of changes, ask others for help. There’s always someone out there who has a handle on the situation or a better information source.
  • Be open about having a person in your family or living with you who’s in a vulnerable group. It will help others to understand your choices and to know what’s right when interacting with you.
  • The best way to avoid embarrassment and discomfort in any social circumstance is to simply start your interaction with “what are you comfortable with?”
  •  Be generous and kind to yourself and others. A good sense of humor brings light to any situation!


What have you learned during the past days and weeks? What “fun” moments did you experience? Please share. We’re all learning, so why not from each other?

wave of fear

The Fear Project

I am so excited The Fear Project is LIVE!

Last week, I spoke with German Valencia, Non-Executive Director, Mentor with global, multi-sector human resources, information technology, and transformation experience and one of the most authentic and energetic leaders I met.

He shared his strategy on how to tackle fear with me, and now also with you:

1. Identify the root cause by increasing self-awareness
2. Get out of comfort zone, experiment, learn on experience
3. Start with small steps towards your desired behavior until it becomes a new natural behavior

You can learn more of German’s thoughts and practical tips in our 9-minute-long chat.

Now is the right time for The Fear Project. It’s time to activate our collective ability to manage fears in constructive ways. Our future depends on it.


What works for you when it comes to managing your fears?


The Strange Benefits of Coronavirus: Our best today defines the status quo tomorrow

These days, you can almost physically feel that the world is changing. A child’s sneeze means something different than it did a few days ago and with that we have become more alert, more intentional and possibly more in tune to the here and now.

Humankind has an amazing ability to adapt. Things and behaviors that were seemingly impossible become the norm within a few days.

Continue reading → The Strange Benefits of Coronavirus: Our best today defines the status quo tomorrow


How to catapult your career and life by accepting the blankness. Lessons in originality and change from great photographers

Your career is humming along when, suddenly, someone or something slams on the brakes.

Maybe your boss assigns you to a new industry, an area where you have no experience or knowledge. Maybe you or your partner are pregnant—a happy brake slam, but a slam nonetheless. Perhaps your spouse announces one night at dinner that the company is sending him—and therefore you—overseas. Or maybe your company is downsizing, and you just learned that you’ve been deemed part of the “excess weight.”  

In any case the effect is similar: suddenly, you find that you can’t rely on what formed a firm foundation in your life up to this point. 

There’s a sudden blank. 

Suddenly you must redefine yourself. 

Continue reading → How to catapult your career and life by accepting the blankness. Lessons in originality and change from great photographers


The next time you feel as if you’re losing your footing, try “hill-falling”

Christmas carols are playing everywhere you go. 

Traffic is a nightmare. 

The kiddos are more excited than usual.

Boxes are stacking up instead of presents.

We are relocating.

I feel like my head is so filled with to-do’s related to closing this chapter of our lives and opening a new one, all while balancing the end of year duties, that I don’t seem to have the headspace I need to be in “the zone” for writing. I know that if I write only out of “duty” and commitment, then it won’t be quality stuff and of service to you.

So, what are my choices? 

Continue reading → The next time you feel as if you’re losing your footing, try “hill-falling”

Brittany Schwartz

A Delicate Topic in the Office: Serious Illness

Have you ever wondered how people manage work when they have a serious illness? You may have seen it, someone pushing their career forward, and then a sudden health crisis forces them to the sidelines and perhaps off course forever. 

As a peer or manager, you  want to be sensitive when speaking with those struggling with health issues. You want to ask just the right amount of questions. You want to allow for flexibility. You want to help.

Continue reading → A Delicate Topic in the Office: Serious Illness


Unmute Your Voice

Shhh…. What’s that I hear?

It’s a voice—someone expressing her thoughts and opinions authentically while interacting with the world.

Though we’re in the 21st century, fewer people than you might think are free to express their opinions.

Quick research on this topic shows that 25 countries limit speech in some way. See for yourself here or in this article.

While I find it deeply disturbing that a substantial part of humankind still lives under some form of a regime that limits personal rights and freedom, I’d like to bring your attention to one segment filled with people who voluntarily remain silent, pushing the mute button on their voices and suffering as a result.

Continue reading → Unmute Your Voice

Did you ever sing “Happy Birthday” during a Town Hall?

I have recently published a post related to labels used when addressing working parents. Today, I want to applaud to all who are managing the juggle between parenting and professional fulfillment, who don’t forget their priorities no matter what situation they are in.

Watch Pete Poul-Graf, my husband and VP in DHL IT Services, make more than a hundred of his colleagues including the management team sing during a Town Hall in Prague today at the occasion of our daughter’s second birthday.  I am grateful that Pete brings the human angle to any situation he is in and also that he is not exploring a career as a cameraman.



What is your trick to make your child’s birthday special while you are on a business trip? When did you last time witness a colleague in the office become creative in solving a family situation? How did the rest of people around respond?

Thanks to all those amazing DHL colleagues singing today and you can count on me, if you ever need me to return the favor!




working father

Please stop calling me a “working mother”. Labels and the damage they cause.

Do the words “working mother” bother you? If not, they should.

Recently, someone called me a “working mother” in a professional setting.

It felt uncomfortable because I’m a non-native English speaker who hears individual words as opposed to culturally known expressions.

The first word is “mother.” I’m the mother of two amazing little people. The second word is “working.” I’ve chosen to stay on my professional path, so technically I am a perfect representation of those two words.

It shouldn’t be a big deal.

The problem is that those two words are exactly that: just two words.

Continue reading → Please stop calling me a “working mother”. Labels and the damage they cause.

Dana with wine

From boring to meaningful: How revisiting my purpose turned a dull business trip into a meaningful one

Earlier this year, I visited one of our company’s locations to deliver training and leadership workshops. As always, I was excited to get into some real conversations and learn with and from my colleagues.

On my first day there, however, the office was half-empty because many people in our Americas region enjoy the flexibility of working from a home office. I couldn’t help but to think, “Was it really worth coming here? Was this well-invested time and money for our organization?”

Then I wondered further: how would one decide whether a trip belonged in the “waste of time” bucket, meaning you’d never do again, or in the much more satisfying “worth it” bucket? Both buckets mean we wake up at 4 am, leave families behind, endure crazy security procedures and return to an even fuller inbox

Continue reading → From boring to meaningful: How revisiting my purpose turned a dull business trip into a meaningful one