A client of mine was at the pharmacy recently, and they had marked off 6 feet increments with yellow tape.
The person behind her, who had a small child with her, was disregarding the distance. When my client asked in a very courteous way (she's a very kind person) to please stand further back, the woman rolled her eyes and said, "I'm fine, this is good enough."
When moments like this occur in human interactions, it always makes me wonder what kind of home they grew up in as a child. What was modeled for them from their parents? What social behaviors are they modeling for their children?
I wonder if the intense negativity of the world is simply getting reflected in what is happening now, and it got me thinking again about what social skills I wish everyone practiced.
Can You Pass the Social Skills Test?
Yes, Even in a Pandemic.
1. Do you have the ability to stay kind and non-reactive at the moment you are annoyed or triggered?
What this means is being able to talk and act (or contain and not talk) separate from how we are feeling. Believe it or not, this is a learnable skill; yes, we get grabbed quickly - but we can learn to stop, to contain our upset, and not act out. Acting out is for toddlers; they can't help it. We can. The whole mindfulness movement is based on this belief.
2. Do you ask questions when you're having a conversation?
So many kind, caring, well-meaning people do not know how to ask questions during a conversation. This creates a burdensome situation in which, once you're done schmoozing about a topic, there is deadness. It also makes people feel that you really aren't interested in them, or don't care about what they are sharing.
So, after you ask a question, be sure to ask a follow up one. Cultivate an interest in others. By adding this step in your conversations, it will become a building block of deep and authentic friendships. You may even notice more people want to spend time with you.
3. Do you apologize instead of defending yourself?
It can be tough to apologize when we feel a burning inside to defend ourselves. And we might disagree about how someone perceived something you did as upsetting. However, the ability to pause and truly visit in the other person's world and validate how someone else is feeling (even if inside you are triggered) means you are a regulated person.
A regulated person is someone who doesn't have to attack and defend at the moment of disagreement. A regulated person can get their ego out of the way, not have to prove that they are the offended party. Words like, "I can see it from your side," or, "I'm so sorry that upset you, I can get how it would."
4. Do you actively listen to other people?
I love the quote that says, "People start to heal the moment they feel heard." Or the one that says, "Being heard is so close to being loved, that for most people, they're indistinguishable."
Perhaps, it feels like those sayings apply to our nearest and dearest, but do we also want to heal the checker at the market? Or, do we want to make our dry cleaning owner know they are loved? In a way, we do - it's all a tapestry we are sewing because everything we do affects everything and everyone else. It's essential to understand and practice deep listening in big and small ways by being receptive and having warm, smiling eyes.
A few weeks ago, on the online neighborhood group nextdoor.com, a neighbor tried a new restaurant, gave a very reasoned review, and stayed kind and courteous; someone responded with one sentence, "Who asked you?"
I felt the familiar stab in my heart. Maybe the adage, "if you don't have anything nice to say…" never had more meaning. And, I think the quote from the Dalai Lama, "Practice Kindness Whenever Possible. It is Always Possible."says it all.
It's simple, but not easy. But we can all do it if we practice and prioritize social skills that reflect kindness and compassion to everyone we encounter every day. Try it today!
If you are struggling with compassion fatigue in your community and relationships during the pandemic that impact your social skills, we are here to help with Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!
This blog post was written by Evie Shafner, LMFT.