- Karen has announced that she is planning to run in a local 5K race. As the date approaches, she spends each day sitting on the couch, watching TV, playing video games, and snacking on popcorn. Although race day is looming, and she has never before run a 5K, she says she’s not worried—she can’t imagine not being successful at this endeavor!
- Tom is 15 years old. He has just completed a driver’s education course where he sat in class for six sessions, watching videos and studying a booklet of “rules of the road.” When he emerges from the final class, his parents hand him the keys to the family car, and wish him well as he heads out on his own for his first drive. They’re confident he’ll be a safe driver!
I’m guessing you identified that neither Karen nor Tom is likely to be successful at reaching their goals.
Learning to be a safe driver takes a lot of practice in addition to knowing the rules, and competency needs to be proven before someone is able to drive alone. Becoming a safe driver cannot happen without experience on the road!
Similarly, no one can prepare to successfully run a race without consistent training.
I believe it is also true that social skills cannot be gained in isolation from other people and without on-going opportunities to practice. Almost weekly, I am introduced to young people who are supposedly looking for employment, but are spending their time alone at home. They do not have friendship groups, they are not taking classes, and they are not volunteering in the community. Like Karen, they spend their days watching TV and playing video games, yet they (and often their parents) expect that as they look for employment, they will somehow have the skills to succeed at interviewing, securing an offer, and getting along with supervisors and colleagues on the job. Like Tom, some people assume that social skills can be gained by reading books about “social rules,” or watching videos about social interactions. These are not bad strategies, but they cannot truly prepare a person for the experience of getting along with other people in real-life situations.
We all need both opportunities and skills for connecting with others in meaningful ways. Do you need to get more connected this week, or is there someone in your life who needs your encouragement, support, and practical assistance in this area?
Best wishes as you practice “social” as you go about your life this week!