Family Connection
About Susan Burns
Learning Issues
Social Skills

Social Skills Therapy

Social Skills and Therapy Groups
Consider what it's like to be at a party alone and to want to join into a group of people you don't know. It's awkward! You might feel a lot of anxiety while someone else in the room might seem to effortlessly glide right into it. Anxious or not, in order to be accepted into the group, you must follow a social protocol. Think about how you do it! Follow the right steps and it leads to a successful mingle. Make one wrong move and you may come off as a bull in a china shop. Couple this with the art of timing and you have a very complex social skill which is really a chain of skills. 

Some of the skills in the above situation require knowing: how to approach the group and make contact with a member of the group, when and how to break into the conversation, and how to carry the conversation with several individuals at once. Recall the scene in the movie "Born Yesterday" where Don Johnston coached Melanie Griffith from the side lines on these very skills. No matter how adept you consider yourself socially, social skills can be awkward for anyone.

Many people have difficulty with social relationships because they have not learned and practiced the appropriate skills. While many people appear to have been born with the skills, others struggle with fear, rejection, and inadequacy. The truth is that self-esteem and social skills are acquired through learning and experience. Our models are our parents, teachers, and peers who show us the skills which we rehearse and polish throughout life. If acquired in the right way, skills can be powerful tools to making and keeping relationships .

There are many reasons why some individuals have more difficulty in accurately reading social situations and applying the right skills: the misperception of social cues; wrong cues: or feeling too shy or angry to practice a skill. Some individuals lack social awareness in certain situations because they never have been taught or received feedback on how they interact and cope. For some individuals, social rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy that becomes a way of avoiding intimacy. For some, being socially incompetent is sometimes easier to deal with than coping with the responsibilities of intimacy. These individuals have to cope with rejection anxiety all the time. Some of the signs are: withdrawal, aggression, anxiety, depression, or deviance. Many individuals can be helped out of the unending feeling of social inadequacy by joining with others therapeutically.

Social skills learning and therapy groups are offered to help children who have difficulty making and keeping friends and coping with aggression. Groups are good learning environments for adults too. These may come in the form of support groups. Meeting in groups with others with whom they have no past experience, allows individuals to learn freely, without labels or expectations, thus offering relief from rejection and the anxiety of having to live up to a social image. Shedding labels and sharing experiences with others is liberating and builds a sense of peer acceptance. A sense of bonding results from positive experiences in relationship.

The best way to learn a skill is to first have a reason for learning it, then to have it modeled for you, and finally to try it out on your own. Groups provide individuals with models for thinking and problem-solving in this way. Exposure to new ways of thinking about their problems and being aware of social attitudes leads to self and peer acceptance. Through learning to recognize fear and anger beneath a situation and being taught skills, more appropriate responses become obvious and workable. A realization occurs making behavior choices to change an outcome an experience of feeling in control rather than out of control. Seeing how one's choices affect others also leads to improved ability to recognize cause and effect and being able to see oneself in context. Above all the  experience of success begins to ground more confidence in dealing with conflict situations.

It is difficult for some  to self-reflect on actions and exercise self-control. When individuals are anxious or overly stimulated, impulsivity can become more exaggerated. In fact, structure can help focus and control but often at the expense of the opportunity for feedback. Recognizing difficulty with impulse control, or what to do to acquire it, or how to avoid the traps of social labels, can be difficult and exhausting without feedback. Group learning can be more effective for gaining self-control because it offers a different kind of interactive learning in a less demanding environment. Learning respect for personal boundaries, adjusting to limits, and safe exploration of social problem solving are much more likely to happen in a small group

When individuals are taught more appropriate strategies in place of those that don't work, the effect can be very liberating. Some of the skills learned in the past really worked  at some point, until the strategies get out worn by complexity of situations. Those that are updated  are remembered because it helps to cope better. Trial and error can be effective. Practice makes perfect and encouragement is vital to discovering new skills. An individual's sense of confidence will grow in leaps and bounds with the experience of power of informed choice working for them. Applying effective strategies to otherwise painful situations in a safe environment, can elicit feelings of acceptance, satisfaction, success, and harmony.

Self Esteem in Children


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