A number of skills and thought processes, collectively referred to as social cognition, lie at the heart of getting along in a social context. These influence how good you are at making and keeping friends and at collaborating with others. The ability to navigate social interactions is important to success in school, in many professions, and to a wide range of other daily activities.
Interacting with other people requires a lot of thinking, including interpreting social information (like reading situations and nonverbal signals from others), deciding the best thing to say or do in a situation, managing the give-and-take of conversation, working as part of a team, and nurturing positive relationships.
People with strengths in this area may be good at detecting the mood of others, using humor appropriately, handling miscommunication effectively, and showing appreciation for others’ viewpoints and interests.
Those with challenges in this area may come across as being either pushy or detached during group work. They may tend to dominate conversations or to be overly passive. They may misread others’ moods or introduce humor or topics that others consider inappropriate to the situation.
Strategies for managing challenges with social cognition
- Focus social interactions around things you like doing, such as a hobby, a volunteer project, or anything you care about.
- Ask people you trust to give you feedback about how you are coming across to others. Make an effort to treat their input as useful data and avoid taking it personally.
- Practice things like giving compliments, asking people for their opinions about things, and active listening. Role play these social skills with someone you trust.
- Be aware of your body language. Click here for some suggestions on how to improve your non-verbal communication.
- This useful article from Waterford.org contains a variety of strategies for teaching children active listening skills.
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) advocates for social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools. It promotes the importance of skills such as recognizing and managing emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.
- Another proponent of SEL, Daniel Goleman, is well regarded for his writing about emotional intelligence.