The Importance of Social Skills in Teens and Young Adults
We are not born with social skills – they must be taught. Our kids’ future career and relationship success depends on how well they harness social skills now. Failure to launch syndrome is prevalent in today’s society. Your gift to your teen or young adult is to give them plenty of opportunities to put their face-to-face communication skills to the test.
The Importance of Face-to-Face Interactions
Texting and messaging do not replace critical face-to-face interactions. We owe it to our kids to help them learn how to communicate effectively, both online and off. Knowing how to converse and handle themselves with all kinds of people, and in all types of situations, will help your teen and young adult leave home with the necessary social skills to thrive.
This may be a long journey – especially if your teen or young adult is resistant. She may not show enthusiasm to work with you, but do not surrender. Step into their shoes, really explore with them and continue to have an open, collaborative conversation.
Key Ingredients for a Socially Fulfilling Life
One of the hardest parts of being a teen is breaking out of their protective shells. Help you kid to build the social skills need to thrive.
- Making Eye Contact
Making eye contact is one of the more important social skills, yet it doesn’t come easy for many teens. Shyness, low self-esteem, screens, lack of interest, “not feeling it!” or not realizing what they are doing are some of the reasons they need reminders.
A quick tip is encourage your child to look the partner in the eye for 50% of the time when they are talking, and 70% when listening. Another option is to hold eye contact for a few seconds, then to look away (slowly and naturally) and then to return.
- Interacting with Adults
When interacting with a professor, advisor or a friend’s parent, “Wassup, dude!” doesn’t cut it. Help your teen or young adult practice proper introductions – with eye contact – and to use names when addressing or introducing adults. This will take practice as they probably have not had much experience talking to adults. In time, they will become less intimidated and more natural around adults.
- Engaging in Reciprocal Conversations
Conversations require give and take. A general rule of thumb is to show the same – or even more interest – when responding. One simple trick is to help your kid respond to a question or comment with another question or comment. For example, if someone asks, “How are you?,” our teen could respond with “I’m OK, working hard at trying to ace the next test.” Extra credit for showing interest in others first! Read more: Build on That
Reading Non-verbal Language
Studies show that 60 percent of what a person communicates is via nonverbal facial expressions and body language. Not only do we need to read others, we need to acknowledge and monitor our own nonverbal messaging. In other words, yes, that eye roll was noticed! Read more about nonverbal communication cues. Read the Room
Listening for most teens basically means not talking for a bit, until you can jump in and talk about yourself. Listening to comprehend and knowing what not to say takes time and mastery. Remember what Grandma taught us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Yes, our teenagers are self-absorbed – and it’s a normal part of the development process as they work to form their own identity. Expressing empathy and sympathy for others doesn’t comes naturally to a lot of teens. This is where modeling of showing concern, care and compassion for others and showing a genuine willingness to jump in and help will coach our teens to do the same.
Making a Great First Impression
First impressions take only 3 seconds to form. Our teens need to learn that going for the job interview or the first date, they need to start by smiling, dressing appropriately, showing up on time shaking hands, being attentive and polite and being courteous. They have much to offer, so encourage them to be themselves and not trying to adopt a personality or mannerism that isn’t genuine.
Products Designed for Teens and Young Adults
Additional Resources for Teens and Young Adults
The Effects of Social Emotional Distancing on Teens’ Social Emotional Development (Excellent and free presentation once you complete the form.)