“Loneliness breaks the spirit.” Jewish proverb
Adult Social Skills: Can We Learn Them?
In eighth grade, I spent three weeks with my father in a remote part of the Amazon rain forest with the Sanuma Indians. I didn’t know any words from their Sanuma language, so it was very hard to get to know people during my stay there.
Some things helped.
I played soccer with the Indian kids my age. I went swimming with them. We roamed through their fields and forests.
But it was kind of lonely.
After all, I looked different from them, and I couldn’t speak their language.
It helped that we smiled at each other.
But that was the extent of our communication.
My father, a linguist,taught me how to write down the sounds and syllables of the language so that I could start picking up some words. I’d point to things, listen to their word, and write it down.
That’s how my father documented their grammar.
At the end of three weeks, I noticed that my limited vocabulary built a bridge of connection to the Yanomami acquaintances I’d started to get to know.
Learning Adult Social Skills
There are many nuances and “vocabulary” terms to pick up with relating to others. Navigating the social world can be difficult and confusing.
But it’s possible to learn! Here’s a method to help you improve your adult social skills.
Video modeling helps you “see” yourself in real life situations.
When I was in graduate school, I had to make a videotape of myself “counseling” a peer. When I saw myself, many of my “blind spots” came into sharp focus: I noticed that I interrupted my peer; or that my voice was really monotone. When I made adjustments, I became a better counselor.
Here’s another example. A friend of mine wanted to become a public speaker. Every time he would give a speech, he had someone videotape him. In this way, he was able to critique himself.
You can do the same thing to improve your adult social skills.
Find someone (not on the spectrum) who is willing to help you learn about yourself. Record yourself (or have a friend record you) making small talk and carrying on a conversation. Your friend can give you tips about what to do more, what to do less, or what to do instead.
Here’s another idea. You can post the video on Google hangouts or on Facebook (use the appropriate privacy features if you don’t want the video to go viral!). In this way, you can get feedback from other people on the internet.
Caution: make sure you are posting to a group of people who are “safe” and can be trusted.
You can also look up Facebook autism support groups, and posting your video there once you get to know and trust the members of the support group.
Here Are Some Online Resources For Adult Social Skills
Succeed Socially http://www.succeedsocially.com/
This is a 100% free social guide written by a “formerly social awkward guy”. He’s written an extensive number of articles you can learn from.
Wrong Planet Adult Social Skills Thread
I found this thread particularly interesting. This Aspie shared her experience with her therapist in learning small talk. It was particularly challenging and exhausting for her, but here’s the quote from her I love the most.
I am learning that my “disabilties” are not something I cannot alter to some degree. Even though I have to accept my “label” doesn’t mean I have to accept where I am today. I can continue to work on improving me and my abilities. This stuff may be hardwired, but I can resolder this chip of the motherboard of mine for an upgrade. It isn’t as easy as just flashing a BIOS, but it is doable.
There’s hope of improving your situation! Don’t give up!
Indiana Center for Autism
This article explains some strategies for making friends. The last section of the article explains video modeling in more detail.
What are some actions you’ll take today to get started improving your adult social skills? What other adult social skills resources would you recommend? Please tell us below!
Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo