Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults. During the pandemic, about four in ten adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. As things open post-pandemic, many people are experiencing even more anxiety when thinking about getting back into a social routine after isolating for so long.

One area that is most concerning to people is the socialization that comes with returning to the office. Many professionals haven’t seen their coworkers in over a year and those that are new to the company will be meeting their peers in person for the first time . When you are in the office, you’re expected to connect with new people and it can be difficult to navigate the flow of conversation. A new Arizona company, JabberYak, is on a mission to engage people with common interests using their ice breakers tools, including customized t-shirts and badges, designed to ignite meaningful, face-to-face communication without relying on personal devices.

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JabberYak is founded and owned by two Scottsdale-based women. Gail Levinthal is a former event planner who immigrated from South Africa in the 1990s, and Shideh Doerr is an entrepreneur and first generation Persian American. The two women started JabberYak after seeing how difficult it was for those around them to connect with others, especially in large group settings such as corporate and singles events, holiday parties and even family reunions. While on a cruise with her family, Levinthal noticed how many people stopped to talk to her son because of the college shirt he was wearing. She saw that people were more willing to connect if they had a common interest.

JabberYak’s technology enables individuals to select their top seven personal interests that give insight into who they are. The selected interests then get printed on a customized item that can be worn to an event, allowing attendees to know something about another person and connect through shared interests before the first word is even exchanged. JabberYak also offers an analytics dashboard to organizers prior to an event, providing valuable insight into who will be attending.

The pandemic disrupted our lives in such a way that going back to a pre-covid routine can be intimidating. It’s natural to feel anxious about the world opening up again, but with the right tools in place, the transition can be smooth and seamless. Knowing the interests of the people around you before the first word is even spoken can ease social anxiety and lead to more quality, meaningful conversations.