How to Help Adults Learn Social Skills

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Everyone gets nervous at one time or another. For some people, social situations cause extreme nervousness and panic. Social skills are typically learned starting at a young age, but not all people properly obtain these skills. As socially anxious people grow older, social situations can become harder, because they may feel they do not have a complete understanding of the skills needed. With practice and determination, adults can acquire social skills by interacting with people around them. Helping adults learn these skills can be as easy as giving them the following simple suggestions.

Step 1

Advise the adults to observe areas that they need to improve on. For example, if they never look other people in the eyes, they should focus on improving that skill. Working on one skill at a time is best. Instead of overwhelming themselves by attempting to implement all of their desired social skills at once, they should start out slow and work their way toward the other skills.

Step 2

Give the adults an assignment to go to a place where they feel comfortable, such as a coffee shop or library, and make eye contact with fellow customers or patrons there. Tell them to continue this until they feel comfortable and their shyness or nervousness starts to become less intense.

Step 3

Ask the adults about their progress. If they feel ready, suggest that they make small talk with their fellow customers in line at the coffee shop or patrons at the library as they browse through books. Going to places such as coffee shops or libraries gives people something to talk about, rather than having to come up with it on their own. They can talk about the weather or their favorite coffee. Tell them that if they see a patron looking at a book they enjoy, they should recommend the book and tell them why they enjoy it so much.

Step 4

Advise the adults who are learning social skills to continue making conversation with people they regularly see. They should keep going to social areas and practicing their skills. When they see regular customers or patrons with whom they’ve spoken previously, they should speak to them again and maintain the relationship, even if it stays casual. If they feel comfortable, they can even ask someone to have a cup of coffee with them.

Step 5

Suggest that the adults practice body language at home in the mirror by themselves. Tell them to observe other people and imitate their body language. They should start by looking at how other people react physically toward others, noticing how far they stand from another person, and watching hand gestures. Then, they should watch themselves in the mirror as they work on their body language. While practicing, they should think about what body language makes them uncomfortable, such as someone standing too close or using too many gestures.

Step 6

Remind the adults to keep in contact with friends and family. As they build their confidence and become more social, it is important that they maintain the relationships they form. When calling friends and family, they should ask how their loved ones are doing and invite them over or out. Continuously using social skills helps to keep them sharp.