Our social skills dictate the way we interact with others, most often without us realizing it. Many adults struggle with social skills for a variety of reasons, but they can be strengthened over time. By developing our social skills, we can increase our chances of enjoyment around others while forming closer connections with people.
A 2017 study published in the journal Health Communication found that having inadequate social skills is linked to both mental and physical health through increased stress and loneliness. The study included a sample of 775 people aged 18 to 91, regarding their ability to: provide emotional support for others, self-disclose or share personal information with others, have difficulty being assertive, and have difficulty in introducing themselves to others and getting to know them. Chris Segrin, head of the University of Arizona’s Department of Communication, discussed the implications that this has on many people, and how many don’t even realize they need help. He stated,
“One of the problems with possessing poor social skills is lack of social awareness, so even if they’re not getting the date, they’re not getting the job … they don’t see themselves as a problem. They’re walking around with this health risk factor and they’re not even aware of it.”
If you’ve struggled with social skills in the past, don’t worry; there are several ways that you can begin developing this:
- Begin assessing your weaknesses. Have you been told that you often speak too softly, that you stand too close to others in conversation or that you talk a little too fast? Identifying some key areas for improvement is a wonderful place to start.
- Educate yourself on verbal and nonverbal communication. Obtain information on eye contact, nonverbal cues, facial expressions, talking points and more so that you can put your new insights to practice.
- Experiment and practice with diverse ways of conveying information. Sometimes it takes a little practice for us to learn what we feel most comfortable doing. If you don’t like consistent eye contact, what about making eye contact for a few seconds and then looking away? Experiment so that you can find your happy medium.
- Look for clues. See what other people are doing in certain social situations to get a better understand for what’s acceptable in the space you’re in.
- Be assertive. Practice standing up for yourself if you don’t do this already. It’s important so that you can garner respect from others.
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