Why Work on Social Skills?

The internationally known psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman published the books Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ and  Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships around a decade ago.

He believes (and I do too) that skills such as self awareness, emotional mastery, motivation, empathy and social effectiveness have a greater impact than traditional intelligence on career success.

To learn more about the importance of social intelligence, watch this talk he gave at Google in 2007:

Or click here

Another innovator in the field of social cognition is Michelle Garcia Winner. She is a speech and language pathologist who has devoted her career to helping those with social cognitive deficits. When attending one of her Social Thinking conferences a few years back she beautifully explained the importance of social skills.

She explained that our social skills directly impact how others feel about us. This impacts how we are treated, how we feel about others, and ultimately, how we feel about ourselves. 

To learn more, watch this video where she speaks about her approach:

Or click here

At her Social Thinking conference, I also loved how she defined SOCIAL SKILLS. She defined social skills as “adapting effectively with others” and “sharing space effectively”.

That really put things into perspective for me. Being social is not just about conversational rules to follow and having good eye contact. Social skills is about judging each situation you’re in and figuring out what’s expected for that situation. When I first began helping students with social skills, we talked about following the rules of conversation. That meant making sure to say hello, trying to keep conversations going, remembering not to interrupt others and making sure to look at others when speaking. Now I’ve learned that it’s much more complex than that.

Now I help students become social observers who focus less on rules to follow and more about thinking about each social situation and what’s expected for that specific situation. I help them build self-talk so they can:

Think About Their Own Thinking     

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& Think About the Thinking of Others

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I help them learn and realize for themselves that social rules change based on the situation. So in order to be an effective social communicator, you must learn to pay attention to many things. You must use executive functions to build awareness of yourself, understand the thoughts of others, and be a problem solver based on the clues you’re getting from others’ non-verbal language and tone of voice. You must make inferences based on the context and prior knowledge because often people say one thing, but mean the opposite and/or they don’t actually say what they truly mean.

To get the conversation going with your students or your children, ask them to define what they think social skills means. I’m always surprised to see how they verbalize it. Once you do that, then you can help them build the skills they need to effectively adapt to different social situations and share space effectively with others.

Here are a few very useful materials I’ve discovered over the years to help students build better social language skills over the years.

Dude That’s Rude

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Social Lang. Development Scenes

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Social Thinking Thinksheets

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I’ve also created many of my own activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers site so check those out too.

 

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