Social skills are a collection of lessons and rules that everyone knows but mostly don’t remember being taught or where/how they came to know such things. But what if you never got the memo? What if you did, but the language was unclear? Or maybe, you didn’t even realize there was a memo to begin with?
Understanding what is going on under the surface is a complex and ever changing challenge. It seems that collectively, we are losing some of the communication and interactive skills that dictate being in the world. Things like nonverbal communication (i.e. body language), sarcasm, situational or environmental factors impact the exchanges we have that much further. Nowadays, the use of texting and email has led to making it that much harder to navigate the waters.
In addition to the nature of social exchanges there are underlying personal challenges that are muddying the water further. If you are anxious, depressed, or have a chronic condition, you may be putting out signals that you don’t realize are being picked up on by others. Maybe you aren’t being as attentive or don’t even want to look at the information that comes your way.
The bottom line is that you can learn and be more fluent in social skills. All you need is a willingness to engage with others, desire for change, and the courage to verbalize your thoughts and feelings. The information is out there. We can help you tune into what is being expressed. We compare against your own experience, and help you be part of the moments of your life. In the very least, you’ll have more information to make decisions and understand reactions more clearly.
In our therapy we will teach social skills by relating to one another. We will role play interactions. This draws upon interactive projects, watching and discussing videos, family play, and helping you re-imagine experiences that take place in your daily life. You are learning to relate to another person in a deeper manner. Social skills are a learning curve in which you will be more observant, more mindful, and interactive with the inner parts of yourself in the moment. Sometimes therapy will feel more like an animated discussion, but it is a simulation of socializing. There are some key components to social skills, all combine to your cultural and social competency. Cultural norms are the understanding the range of expected behaviors generally acceptable to others. Situational factors are the unique factors that dictate the mood and restrictions of certain choices (such as how one is expected to behave in a library). There are then individual preferences that learned by experiencing an person over time and identifying how this particular individual acts or is comfortable (i.e. some friends do not like people to wear shoes when you enter into their home). Finally, there is a force called “conformity” in which you are guided to act like others and to go against this is to invite negativity. The best example of this is how one behaves in an elevator. (Do you look up at the lighted numbers?)
The only down side to this is that all this generally happens in the office. We need you to go out and practice in the real world or with more individuals. The type of social skills taught in therapy are best done in tandem with other modes of exposure. There are therapy groups which are very impacting as you will contend with real-time pressures and unpredictable stimuli while in the midst of others. There are interactions with animals (i.e. horses) and activities (i.e. art, games, or ropes courses) which help bridge the gaps with others. Predictable structure with supports at hand will help you become more confident in interacting in social situations.