Social Withdrawal Concerns

“I don’t want to go out” or “No, You can’t see your friends” can be a sign that you are socially withdrawing out of more than just an abundance of precaution. You may be self-isolating out of fear.

Even before COVID19 and social distancing, many of the children and adults I hear from and work with struggled with loneliness and with real intimacy and connection.

Are You Self-Isolating Out of Fear?

Do you find that even if you feel like connecting, that you stop yourself?

Do you decline invitations in person or virtually, eat and spend most of your day alone and find the thought of being social too daunting? If so, it is critical to figure out why. Many people trying to be safe and responsible or who have trouble connecting to begin with find it hard to reach out. How do I do this? What can I say? As time goes on it gets harder. And life becomes less about the joy that connection brings us as social animals and more about drudgery, duties, and tasks. My concern is that long term isolation can lead to depression, addiction, anxiety, mood swings, self-harm,  and that people want to hear from you. And if you struggle, then so many of us professionals, books and resources are here and want to help you. Connection and reaching out is hard right now. It’s easy to slip off our radar and for many it’s easier to stay in their cocoon. Reaching out to connect feels hard. (Please scroll below for suggested resources)

If you fear that you have lost the ability to engage in meaningful conversations with others or will be subjected to the virus every time you leave the house, it is important to face the fear. Fear is normal.  Take small steps, small bites to reach out, to join even a virtual gathering by video.

Humans are Social Creatures

Our human brains are wired for connection so social isolation can become a healthy hazzard. We rely on each other, exchange knowledge and share community. Socially isolating means you are cut off from Human C – What Dr. Hallowell calls, the Other Vitamin C – Human Connection. Lack of human connection removes you from the resources you need, and can land you in a fatigue that is hard to extract yourself from.

Signs of Social Withdrawal

  1. Not calling anyone or answering your phone
  2. Not engaging with others even when invited
  3. Staying indoors all day and night
  4. Justifying working from home as a reason to hide indoors
  5. Shooting quick texts and emails rather than having a live conversation
  6. Becoming critical or even angry at others’ beliefs, behaviors, sanitary measures, etc.
  7. Refusing to allow children or family members to socialize in-person
  8. Increased anger, depression, guilt, boredom

Healthy Social Suggestions:

  1. Don’t keep your thoughts inside. Discuss your concerns with a trusted family member, friend or professional
  2. Take a chance and start a conversation with someone new.
  3. Join a social app, Meetup, chat, etc. to share your thoughts and communicate with like-minded people
  4. Try to avoid the news or discussions that center solely around COVID-19
  5. Get outside! Look at the sky, breath fresh air, take a walk
  6. Practice meditation or yoga to develop deep thinking and focus
  7. Try to figure out why you are reclusive without judging

RESOURCES:

Connection is a Verb

Encourage Social Skills Development

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

Encourage Social Skills Development

I take great pride in sharing with you the information that professionals know about how to encourage social skills development in people, especially those with lagging executive function skills.

Consequently, I believe that the more information you are given, the better you can to support it.

Be Patient: Transformation happens very slowly.

As a parent, you are there all the time and their partner, but it can be confusing for both of you to navigate the social terrain. Further, this process requires an abundance of patience!

Move from “No!!” to “Hmmm?…..

Bridge to Betterment

In my book, I describe Bridge to Betterment, the process of  moving from “no thank you!” – to realization – to change.

Your role as a social skills coach is not to push, but rather to hold a mirror to their actions and help them understand how change can happen. You will constantly need to help them see things… and this is where open ended questions and reflective listening come into play.

As you move through the stages of change… you will hear them say, “I kinda wish I had done that differently…” These nuggets can provide huge information as to how they think.

Model by your own actions and talk about how communication and friendship skills requires action. Discuss the stages of friendships and learn more about which stage they are in with each friend. Use questions and reflective listening to help your child or student to agree, disagree, tell clarifying information and to realize what they are doing. Find the carrot of who they want to be and link this to social skills and friendships.

Remember – Connection requires action!    #ConnectionMatters

Deeper Dive:

How to Keep the Social in Social Distancing

How Does Social Skills Development Occur?

Everyone is Working on Something

Do I need to Teach My Kid How to Make Friends?

Everyone is Working on Something

Do I Need to Teach My Kid How to Make A Friend? I Never Needed That Kind of Support, Why Does He?

How to Nurture Social Emotional Development in Isolation

 

 

The Silver Lining: Empathy and Kindness

Are you finding yourself unsettled and anxious? 

Routines? What routines?

What really matters now?

When circumstances jolt us from our routines, it is hard to reset. Business is not the same as usual. For many, the answer is to help others…

If there is a silver lining in all of this… it is that we are experiencing unexpected kindness.

I stopped in my tracks after reading this post in a local chat group. THIS is why the human spirit will not be denied.

How to Help Someone Struggling:

First, to set the scene, you have to create an opportunity to actually talk and meet him where he is. Pick a time and place most comfortable for both of you to have this initial discussion. People tend to be more receptive to conversation when they’re physically comfortable, unhurried and undistracted.

Ask questions. Don’t judge. Don’t demand she change.

Use Open-ended Questions:

By asking open-ended questions, you encourage honest, candid and thoughtful discussions. Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, and how. Below are some conversation starters:

  • How are you doing?
  • What do you like (not like) about your situation?
  • What interests you?
  • What is your virtual world like?
  • What makes ______ appealing?
  • I have noticed that sometimes you have a hard time with (identify a behavior). What makes (name the behavior) hard for you?

If your child or friend resists, ask him, “What feels hard about this?”

If he denies there is a problem, you can say, “Well I have noticed…” and then name a specific series of situations. Ask him what feels uncomfortable or makes him afraid of making that change. Share with him the things that could happen if he were willing to work on this concern and ask him what he would like to be different. You will share with him a picture of possibilities—what it could be like. Some key phrases that are helpful:

  • “I am curious”
  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What is that like for you?
  • “What does that feel like?

When you are curious and really listen, you can never go wrong.

Clarify Concerns and Express Empathy:

As she is responding to your questions, be sure to clarify her concerns by being a reflective listener: Listen closely, repeat back what you heard and ask if you understand correctly. You can say: “Here’s what I hear you saying…is that right?” If she feels that her concerns are heard and validated, she will be more open to hearing what you have to say. Accept and validate her sentiments by using you and I statements, such as “You are overwhelmed” and “I am sad you are lonely.”View Post

Finally, and this is very important, be sure to express empathy: “I hear you,” “I get it,” “That must be hard.”

Learn more:

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

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When Someone Isn’t Nice, Should You Ignore It?

People can be rude or insensitive.

How to react when someone is mean

If you are on the receiving end of a hurtful remark, you may be tempted to ignore it or brush it aside rather than risk adding to your discomfort by giving it further attention. Snubs, slights and other verbal “sticks and stones” are part of life, but our words matter, and what we say affects other people and affects how they feel about us.

A caring and constructive response is to talk to a friend, confident, family member in a way that gives you a chance to share your feelings, and the two of you an opportunity to reflect together on how to handle moments like this.

Often, such comments are made in a context that you or may not have witnessed yourself. Even if you think you know the circumstances, there may be more to it than you are aware.

How to navigate socially when you hit a bump.

  1. Tell it Like it Is.  Acknowledge to yourself or your child that what was said was inappropriate—a poor way for anyone to speak to someone else, whatever their gripe may be.
  2. Acknowledge feelings. Ask yourself, “How do I feel about what was said?” This gives you a way to analyze why it hurts so much.
  3. “What was that about?” No need to interrogate the offender, but try to put yourself in their shoes. Could you have misunderstood? Was it intentional. Could they be having a bad day? Is there any evidence that I brought this on?
  4. Do a quick reality check. Are your feelings reasonable given the circumstances? Just for your own understanding, listen to your self-talk for any emotional extreme that suggests you are struggling with something bigger than you might have imagined.

No matter what, there is always a choice. We can either believe the things that makes us feel small, or we can fight hard for ourselves and our worth.

Read more:

Learn more on how to connect better

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

I’m seeing many introverts engaging more socially now due to our current, virtual world. Yay! Zoom is great for shy people as it can be less intimidating than walking up to someone in person.

Now is the perfect time to work on strategies to build your (or your child’s) social and emotional skills for when we return to “normal” in-person interactions.

The first step is to understand where you need help, and then to set achievable goals. What about interacting with others, online and in-person, causes you to avoid or delay connecting? Understanding where you need help is critical to setting up a plan.

Next, source online communities of like-minded people and in advance of the next meeting or call, practice working on these areas of concern.

SOCIAL SPY

Many feel uncomfortable when they use my social spy technique because we worry others are noticing us. Let me assuage your mind – they are not. Use this technique to gage the culture, make a mental inventory of people and what you KNOW about them, step into their shoes and figure out what hot buttons they have.

Next, practice making small talk. Bridge the gap from “Hi” to a deeper conversation. This is often easier in the virtual world as it can be less intimidating than real life, so practicing now is important.

Think about who in this larger group you might want to build a connection or friendship with. What invitation can you suggest to reach out to them individually? Look at their surroundings – what do the things in the background tell you about this person. Step into their shoes – what do they like?

Congrats on your desire to make friendships and connection important to you! Once you establish a connection, be sure to nurture the relationships by sending a message, calling or talking outside of the committee, school, workplace.

Remember to pick one thing to work on and every time you walk through a real or virtual door, to remember your intention, review the group and identify your role.

You Got This!

 

Social Spy

What is it to be a Social Spy?

The concept of Social Spy is designed to help you or your child learn to  manage concerns around social skills and social and emotional development.

Exercise: Go into a virtual or public event with a mission to be a social spy to obtain specific social information. Rehearse ahead of time in order to watch other people in a subtle, covert way and to listen without looking like you are eavesdropping. The idea is to scan and read the room to learn crucial information about peers such as how they dress, what they talk about as well as how to observe and notice other people’s behavior, mood and energy.

Collaborating Virtually at Work and School

Working or learning virtually can be a challenge especially if reading social cues and managing your communication is a challenge.  We have the technology to create and support virtual teams, but collaborating remotely requires special skills.

These tips can help build social and communication skills in a virtual setting: 

  1. Consider who is Your Audience- Think about what you know about the people in each meeting or interactions, what motivates them? What is their history with you? What are their past choices and what does that tell you about how they will react to a situation? Then if need be, pause as you adapt your communication to the audience and consider the situation and their personality.
  2. Use Video Conferencing to Watch for Social Cues- Whenever possible, use a visual medium so you can see the other person’s nonverbal signals and interpret how they feel. Reading body language and facial expressions will help you gauge how to react to the other person, identify how they are feeling and tailor your communications more effectively. Body Language can change the meaning of a simple phrase, so watch the speaker for head nods (agreement), crossed arms (defensiveness), smirking (can mean they agree and are amused or disagree and are nodding politely), and a sigh (frustration).
  3. Read the energy of the other person- Energy tells you so much about another person’s mood. People’s voice, what they say, their body language can alert you to their energy. Consider the energy of the person you are speaking to and ask yourself what does this tell you about their mood? What does that mean about your conversation and how can you adapt your approach to match their energy? The pace of the person’s language can tell you so much about their energy.
  4. Pay Attention to Context- Context is the situation, the environment, the mood, the circumstances and what has been going on. Interpreting the context can help you adjust your message to the audience you are speaking to​ and to remember their thoughts and feelings and how that impacts the conversation.
  5. Read Between the Lines- As you communicate with co-workers and friends from a distance, the way something is said can change the meaning so it is important to read between the lines. Drawn out words change the meaning of a sentence, for instance, a stress on the adjective i.e., “that is SOO nice”, changes the meaning from positive to a negative, snarky comment. Intense verb adjectives and adverbs, such love, hate, and always can be signs of sarcasm.  Reading between the lines can help translate what the person means, allowing you to make a choice on how to respond.

Change can be overwhelming. Rather than worrying about everything at once, a good approach is to pick one mission, one thing to work on and then to focus on that goal.  What you focus on will grow and develop and will help you manage your social relationships virtually.

Connection is a Verb

We’ve all heard the sayings: “Money doesn’t fall from trees,” “The early bird gets the worm,” “Make new friends but keep the old.” What do they have in common? They require action! You don’t just sit on the couch and get rich (unless you are a youtuber or creating some new and improved way to work from home – stocks are super-hot now during COVID!)… but I digress…

My goal in this post is to implore you to reach out and cultivate friends. Friends come in all forms and from all places: your kid’s school, neighbors, coworkers, place of worship, online, etc. I say connection is a verb because it requires action. You can’t make someone else do something, this is up to you, and it’s especially pressing now during social distancing.

How do you make friends? It can be easy for some of us, and painful for others – just implore the isolated friend to “just call him!” What seems “easy” for you became an exercise loaded with details, dread and potential rejection.

Building the skills to make, and keep friends, takes time…. But it is Oh, So Worth It.

Roadmap to Making and Keeping Friends:

  1. Develop Social Skills – The good news is that social skills can be developed just like any other skill. If executive functioning challenges are present, it is best to address them beforehand as developing social skills may be impacted.
  2. Engage – This is an important verb, as it may produce uncomfortable feeling while you reach outside your comfort zone. Action steps include smiling, listening, texting, inviting, joining, etc. Start with small steps but keep pushing forward, the world needs what you offer. Read about Rejection Sensitivity.
  3. Interpret – Once you are engaging, you need to be aware of others’ reactions. Are they truly listening and communicating back? Do your best to interpret verbal and non-verbal language and to adjust so that each party is enjoying the encounter.
  4. Build – Rome wasn’t built overnight (I know, I know, enough with the sayings) but this is yet another example of how long-term action is required to keep long term relationships healthy.
  5. Nurture – I was just about to add how watering friendships with love is like watering a garden… but you get the idea. Reaching out, being there, truly listening, laughing, sharing are all verbs that nurture the soul.

My mission is to vanquish social isolation and to bring together connection – in all forms. I hope you will join me! #ConnectionMatters

Dive Deeper:

Read more about social skills

Download Connection is a Verb graphic

Read more about the importance of connection by Dr. Hallowell

How to really understand what’s going on in social settings

Rejection Sensitivity & ADHD

When you experience Rejection Sensitivity, you have a heightened reaction to a real, perceived or even anticipated event, person or situation. This reaction feels all-consuming and mammoth inside you and it’s crushing – even crippling!

When this event occurs, even if it is a small non-event to most, it feels enormous and can literally is paralyze you. This overwhelming physical sensation feels unbearable and on a scale of 1 to 10 – it is 10+! What matters here is how it makes you feel; not the actual situation.

Our brains are ancient, so when they perceives a threat, our body and brain go into fight, flight or freeze modes. The situation feels so intense because your brain is in “survival” mode and a deeply, automatic programmed neurological alarm is going off to warn you to get away as if  a saber tooth tiger is literally coming to eat you…

…and you go into fight, flight or freeze. This reaction – this rejection sensitivity –  can be past trauma or anticipation, but regardless, this fear causes a defensive cascade in the brain.

Future planning is the key to strategizing ways of softening or eliminating these reactions. To help avoid these intense reaction and calm your brain and body in the moment, I have invented the Intensity Meter so you can figure out How Intense Does It Feel?  How intense this reaction feels in your body indicates which strategy you need to use in order to restore oxygen and blood back to the deeper regions of the brain and calm your body.

3 Steps to Managing the Negative Impact of Rejection Sensitivity:

Step One: Figure out how typical intense triggers and events feel in your body.

 

 

Step Two: Now that you know how intense these emotions feel, you can begin to pick strategies ahead of time to use when your reaction has reached a 7, 8,  9 or 10  in order to stop that runaway cycle, and help regain control so it returns to the wise-thinking brain.  This calming is like an engine of a car that is overheated and revved up. Physical strategies cue your body that “you got this”, and there is no threat and it can stop the alarm system.

There are 4 R’s to help you manage these intense reactions:

(please send an email to me if you would like to download this tool)

 

Step Three: Develop everyday strategies to keep your thinking brain in charge and fend off the runaway reaction cycle. The more you intervene with a strategy when your reaction starts, the more you can avoid your body going into fight, flight or freeze.

Watch the Youtube Episode: How To Deal With Rejection Sensitivity

Read more on how to help your child build social skills

15 Phrases to Spark a Conversation About Social Dilemmas

Talking about social challenges is never easy. For most parents, the dread of how to begin keeps us from having the conversation at all. Or it turns what could be a series of small breezy chats into an epic conversation akin to a meeting of rival nations at the UN.  Some children simply won’t engage. They do a disappearing act—scattering whenever you bring up anything.

15 phrases to spark a conversation about social dilemmas and situations for your child: 

  1. “What does it mean to be a good friend?”

Teaching our children to be good friends starts with this question. Ask your child, “Who do you know that is a good friend to you?”

  1. “Who are you playing with these days?”

With a perspective of curiosity, explore what your child is doing for fun.  Don’t leap into a lecture—just gather information.

  1. “If you could change one thing about your friendships, what would you change?”

Coaching is about exploring and being curious. Refer to something your child has said about socialization, “I keep thinking about a conversation we had the other day, and you said you dread social stuff because it’s hard for you.”

  1. “Everyone is working on something. Do you want to hear what I am working on?” Share your personal challenges, then suggest, “What if we each pick something hard and we work on it together. I think it might be good to work on your friendship skills. What do you think?”
  2. You often complain about Jenny and how she treats you. How would you like her to treat you?”

Listen (just listen—don’t jump in to correct him or argue) to how your child describes social disappointments. Acknowledge what you’re hearing and follow up with, “What makes you frustrated about Jenny?

  1. “You told me the other day that being social is hard for you. What do you mean by that?”

Explore what makes your child struggle and what makes being social hard for him. Listen and collect information. Hearing his perspective can help him open up.

  1. “What are you doing well as a friend? What can you do to be a better friend?”

Allow your child to consider her role as a friend and the fact that being a friend is a dynamic activity. Rather than telling her what she is not doing, allow her to contemplate, and problem solve.

  1. “Sometimes you tell me it’s not worth trying to meet up with friends. What makes you say that? Tell me more.”

Explore her assumptions about social life and friendship. Does she tell you she’ll “never be invited,” or “it’s not worth trying to see someone,” or she wants “to keep trying on her own?” Some responses could include, “What makes you say that? How come? Tell me more.”

  1. “What are your specific strengths? What makes something easy for you?”

Everyone has different strengths. Help him look at what he is good at and what it means to be able to have social intelligence. Follow up with, “Who do you know who is good at the same things? Who do you know that is smart about social stuff?” 

  1. “What is a story we tell ourselves? How is it different from a fact? What kind of story can be helpful? What kind of story can hold us back?”

Be ready with child-friendly examples. For instance, people once thought the world was flat. How did that limit what they thought was possible and what they were willing to try?

  1. “Did I ever tell you about my experience with friendship at your age?”

You can share an example from a “friend’s child,” or you can share something from your past, telling it with detail. This helps open your child’s thought process.

  1. “I hear you say that a lot. What do you mean by that?”

Listen to the way your child describes herself in the role she believes she has in her peer group or the family. Comments such as, “I’m always the one who gets in trouble,” “I’m just the funny girl,” “I’m such a loser,” or, “They’re just stupid,” show an underlying story or narrative, she is telling herself. Ask her about those statements or little comments she makes. Some questions you can ask, “You say you were ‘being good,’ what does being good mean?”

  1. “What about friendship makes it enjoyable?” “Which friendship is enjoyable?

Friendship should be a positive experience. Help your child look at her desires for friendship.

  1. “How much do you need to participate in school activities to be included and have friends?

It takes a certain amount of “joining in” to meet and keep friends. Some children will not be social and engage in activities. Rather than causing this to be a lightning rod topic, approach it softly and make her think.

  1. “ I notice you didn’t talk to anyone at karate yesterday. I am curious how come?”

If your child isn’t a talker or able to find the words to express himself, you can say, “I notice…” and share an observation or an image. Ask if he agrees or disagrees with your perception.

For more on how to help your child with executive functioning challenges to engage socially, join me at The Executive Function Online Summit starting August 21st. RSVP now for free

 

 

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