The ABC’s of Social Skills for Adults

Are you a socially aware?  Check in with yourself and ask the following questions.

Do you still forget to wait until the entire table has been served before starting to eat your dinner?
Are you always cutting someone off mid-sentence to share your point of view? 
Did you spend all of your lunch with your college mate talking about your own kids and forget to ask about his family?
Did you respond to your kids after school with your nose in your iPhone instead of looking them in the eye and having a proper conversation?
At the gym, do you forget to clean off the equipment when you are done working out?

As parents, therapists and educators we spend a great deal of time trying to modify the social behaviors and etiquette of our children. But have we ever stopped to examine ourselves, the social cues we miss and the mistakes we make? Grown-ups are not immune to the nuances of social etiquette. In fact, we’ve noticed that adults need some major brushing up on their SEL knowledge too. At cocktail parties, out to lunch with a friend, on a date or at the gym, many adults could benefit from some Meeting House curriculum.  We’ve started with some advice on communication basics  -  this is an area that many adults can improve on to enhance their relationships and build more depth in to their social interactions.

Active Listening
Accepting Feedback
Personal Space
Flexibility

Active Listening
Take your eyes off of the phone screen.  That tinder date can wait. In fact, put your phone away and be present.  By looking down at your phone while someone is talking to you or while leaving it out on the restaurant table you are showing poor social etiquette, disrespect to the person you are dealing with and prohibiting yourself from being an active listener. Active listening in a conversation requires your eyes, your ears, your body and your heart to be fully executed.  Eye contact is a form of body language which is almost always essential during a conversation.  Listen with intent and mindfully when conversing. Instead of thinking of how you may respond to the speaker, how hungry you feel, or your plans for later, face the speaker and Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.  For more information and tips, here is an article that details the importance of eye contact and active listening through 10 Steps to Effective Listening (click here).

Accepting Feedback
We remove the word “criticism” when we are talking about feedback because of the negative connotation that it creates. Accepting feedback as an adult can be extremely challenging but an essential social skill. To accept feedback we are put in a vulnerable emotional state which can be very discomforting for some individuals. However, one should not have to feel this way. Instead, listen mindfully to what the person has to say instead of becoming reactive or defensive. For example, at work, unsolicited advice or correction often triggers resentment because it presumes authority on the part of the critic. Such feedback tends to come across as a power play—something that's easier to tolerate is a manager who's a recognized authority than in a peer who isn't. Re-framing your line of thinking and understanding your coworker is most likely offering genuine help can maintain a positive mindset and build positive energy and collaboration. For more advice on how to gracefully accept feedback click here.

Personal Space
No one likes a close talker. Have you ever been at a cocktail party and a person comes right into your face to start a conversation? They are so close you can literally taste what they just ate. Gross! Learning personal space and boundaries is an important social skill in conversation. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached. Take a look at this clip from Saturday Night Live which comically captures the annoyance of a close talker. There are lots of tips for dealing with close talkers we can use to make ourselves a little more comfortable without coming off as rude or obviously bothered by another person’s actions. Take a read here.

Flexibility
No, we don’t care if you can touch your toes. Rather, how willing are you to adjust your plans to meet the needs of the whole group? Are you willing to compromise? Being socially flexible is crucial in building and maintaining friendships. Having social skills means adapting to your environment, not stubbornly “being who you are.” Perspective taking is paramount in building flexibility as it allows us understand others points of views and demonstrate empathy. Next time you and your friends are figuring out where to go for dinner take a mindful second to consider everyone’s opinion. To read more about how flexibility strengthens character and builds engagement in the workplace click here.