Michelle Garcia Winner, creator of Social Thinking, wrote a wonderful article on how to improve social skills. Social Thinking is a great tool that The Moore Center uses with many of our individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. To read the article in full, click here, or read below for Michelle’s 3-step process to teach social thinking and related social skills.
1. Engage in social thinking:
Social thinking is the ability to consider your own and others thoughts, emotions, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, etc. In other terms, it is the culmination of executive functioning, perspective taking, and self-awareness that enables you to interpret and understand the social situation and what behaviors are expected of you. Remember that your behavioral-response is directly influenced by your social thinking. Social behaviors that align or fail to align with what other people expect in that situation determines how others judge your “social skills”. Improving your social thinking ability is a life-long learning process, and the key to developing chameleon-like social skills.
2. Adapt your behavior effectively (social skills)
Based on the results of your social thinking, adapt your behavior to consider the thoughts and feelings of others, as well as to communicate your intentions in the situation. By doing so, people are more likely to react and respond to you in the manner you had hoped (see below)
3. Be aware of others’ reactions:
People emotionally respond to our behaviors very quickly. If we feel a person has good social skills we may describe them as “polite” and “friendly”; if person has weak, awkward, or poor social skills we often describe them as “rude”, “odd” or “impolite”. The terms “polite”, “rude”, “friendly”, “impolite”, etc., represent how we emotionally perceive another’s behavior. We are far better at summarizing our feelings (emotional response) than we are at describing intellectually the behaviors a person produced that swayed how we felt. How people respond to our behavior often leads to how they treat us in return.