Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
I moved to Tampa a few months ago for a great new career opportunity. Things have been good for the most part, but my shyness and tendency to feel terribly awkward around people I don’t know well has really been holding me back from getting to know my new coworkers. They seem like great people, but I always back out when they invite me to lunch or to get drinks on Fridays after work. I’m just so scared of saying the wrong thing and having them judge me. I really wish it was easier for me to be open with these people since I get the feeling that they’d make some great friends. What can I do?
There are so many individuals out there who know how to read and work a room. If it’s a business meeting, they’re ready to go and prove themselves without effort. If it’s a party or other get-together, then a social butterfly emerges!
On the other hand, socialization can be an anxiety-inducing experience that can lead to difficulty in peoples’ search for meaningful relationships, interactions, and even job hunting. If you’re one of these people, then Rice Psychology Group wants to help you navigate through your journey towards improved social skills.
Reading the Room
Michelle Garcia Winner, a Congressional award-winning speech-language pathologist, says certain individuals experience difficulty taking other people’s thoughts into consideration as they prepare to socialize. In order for a person to react or behave in the “expected” or “appropriate” way, it’s necessary for them to be mindful of other peoples’ perspectives, what you already know about them, and of the environment around them. This thought process is known as our “Social Thinking.”
Whether they mean to or not, people make judgments about us based on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of our social skills. This means the way our interactions are perceived is directly related to our consideration of other people’s opinions, feelings, and beliefs as well as how they fit with the circumstances or situation we’re in. And don’t forget about body language and whether we make some degree of eye contact when we talk with others.
Michelle refers to eye contact as “thinking with your eyes” because where we look is a major indicator of what we’re thinking about. So, looking at a person when we are talking with them, or at least checking in with frequent glances, is a pretty important piece of appropriate social interactions. It’s a fast-paced and complicated process, but one that we believe you can work through and improve on.
Social Thinking makes up a large portion of the effective ways you can showcase your ability to connect with others and increase the chances that they’ll have positive feelings about you. It takes many layers of social interaction into consideration as it helps you navigate a conversation. Learning proper Social Thinking may not be easy, but our licensed psychologists and therapists trust the following three-step process:
- Engage – The first step in Social Thinking is to acknowledge that you need to take part in it. As we’ve previously discussed, the way you respond in social situations is linked directly to your Social Thinking. Working on it will help you develop better social skills with time.
- Adapt – No two interactions will be the same. However, by taking other people’s ideas and emotions into consideration, you’ll be able to adapt your social responses accordingly. Regularly employing this step will help you reach the outcome you want out of an interaction.
- React – If someone is being polite or rude, they’ll get a response out of us. This back-and-forth has a big say in how other people perceive our reactions. Be mindful of this and do your best to act accordingly.
Let’s Hone Those Skills!
Social skills are highly important, especially in a day and age where interactions have a massive impact on more than just how we’re perceived by a handful of people. If your social skills could use a bit of work, know that we’re here for you. Several of the psychologists at RPG utilize Social Thinking in their work with kids and adults. Reach out to us in Tampa today for more information on how we can help. If, on the other hand, you’d like to work on your social skills at home a bit, then check out the Social Thinking website. There are many free resources as well as some for purchase that you might find helpful.