Determining social and etiquette norms can be challenging, especially if you’re neurodiverse or just that little bit awkward. I know the feeling all to well, and I’m a pretty social person. Still, in any new situation, I have that moment of doubt: how am I supposed to handle this? Can I cuss around these people? Are there rules I don’t know yet? It’s especially hard in virtual spaces because we’re so used to reading the full body language of our conversation partners.
The best advice I ever got about dealing with this is to find yourself a mentor. This doesn’t have to be a formal relationship, and it’s something you should wait a little while to do, in order to avoid having the wrong mentor—one who isn’t well liked or doesn’t operate in the circles you do. When you find the right person, though, approach that person and ask for some basic coaching: “I never know who to respond when we get questions like the one today, but I noticed that your answers are always really good. I wonder if you would be open to coaching me a little.” Ideally, this will be a person who works in the same department as you, because you can also watch what your mentor does in awkward situations and follow suit. Choose a good person as your etiquette mentor and before you know it, you’ll be getting asked to mentor others!