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!

 

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

 

Top 10 Social Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic

We’re all figuring this out, yet some of us have adapted to the rules of Pandemic Protection faster and better than others. This is a weird new world, yet community and civility should not be tossed out with our disposable masks!

Some people wear masks driving alone in cars, while others claim they “don’t believe in them.” COVID is real, and its effects will last a long time. As a social skills coach, I see all types of behavior as we adjust to this mask-wearing, distancing new normal.

Here are my top observations of how to inadequately protect yourself and others.  Next time you brave a store trip or visit with a neighbor, see if you recognize yourself in these personnas.

Top 10 Etiquette Faux-Pas During a Pandemic:

  1. Bubble-Buster – These people speed up to you as if participants in The Amazing Race.  Simply turn if they are approaching and moving past you quickly, but if they are lingering, take the high road and move out of the way. When you are in a store, don’t approach someone else in the aisle, just move to the next aisle. When waiting in line, stay 6 feet apart and don’t encroach on others.
  2. Close Talker – They probably were close talkers as toddlers, but why can’t they just get it that you can’t do this now? A friendly, “do you need a mask?” will hopefully signal to them that they need to cover up their droplets. Should that not suffice, be sure to step back, turn your head and awkwardly adjust your mask in hopes they receive the message. If not, run.
  3. Squeezer – As if they have nothing better to do, these folks touch every melon in the grocery store! Please don’t pick up every can, bag and freezer item. You can’t pick things up to read labels right now. I don’t want to touch what you’ve just touched – who knows where you’ve been!
  4. Rule Police – Don’t yell out in the crowded produce area, “6 feet apart!” You didn’t make the rules, so don’t feel the need to enforce them. Let the signs and notices do that.
  5. Can’t be bothered – For heaven’s sake, just wear the mask in public! Have a mask at the ready to speak to someone at a drive up window or to say hello. Buy fresh masks and hand them to those who don’t have one. Yes, this may make them feel as if you are asserting your superiority, but in fact, you are the smart one!
  6. Confused – If you’re not sure of the appropriate etiquette, watch what others do and mirror it. Of course, with the caveat that you aren’t repeating these faux-pas!
  7. Hugger – “I’m a hugger and I can’t help it!” I hear you. I feel the same way, but please don’t hug or touch other people, even an elbow touch on an arm right now is jarring. Yes, it stinks, but it’s necessary.
  8. Pontificator – These guys expound on COVID details in excruciating detail. People are stressed, don’t start big lectures with every acquaintance. Some of us are trying to compartmentalize our fears so we can assume some form of normalcy.
  9. Hoarder – You heard of them, you may even know one or two. As if graduates of Defcon training, these sneaky people take all the toilet paper, wipes and sanitizers before the 2-limit rule was implemented. Don’t take all the supplies left on a shelf, your neighbors are watching and they will be angry because heck, they need toilet paper too!  And, it’s just plain not nice!
  10. Digital Non-native – These people don’t check their emails, rarely text and now are over-whelmed with virtual meetings. We get it, everything and everyone is online now, but please figure out how to join a Zoom meeting or provide a signature electronically. This is not going away.

There isn’t one person on the planet who wishes this pandemic was here to stay. I am tired of it. You are sick of it. And those who lost someone to it especially grieve. Let’s do the best we can to protect ourselves and others so this nightmare can be put to rest.

What Will the Fall Be Like?

Now is the time for parents to contemplate what fall will look like. None of us knows what to expect, but we can’t just adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Measures should be put into place this summer in preparation for a successful school year.

As a social skills coach, I suggest that parents review the social struggles that were most prevalent last year. Did your daughter make friends easily or did she eat alone at lunch? Now would be a good time to ask her if there were people she would like to get to know better. Are there clubs, sports, events etc. that interest her? Find out if enrollment is starting for the fall for the programs she likes. She can ask a friend to join, or do it alone with the plan of making new friends, maybe even from another town. Send a message to the guidance counselor or new teacher and explain her interest in making new friends. She isn’t the first to voice this concern.

If school work was an issue because of executive functioning challenges or attentional issues, reach out to the school administration and ask if you can turn things in differently, or later.

Video interactions are a great way to “play” with others, and older kids can go to the park, etc. with the understanding of distancing.

Now is also the time to create plans and infrastructure around the use of electronics as it is probable that remote learning will be here to stay.

Learn more about how to thrive during the pandemic

 

3 Tips to Building Empathy During a Social Crisis

COVID Resource – Are we becoming cruel and self-centered or just oblivious?

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Let’s face it, we are in a social crisis. Socially distancing is making us exhausted and LONELY. What’s more, on a whole, we are becoming “less nice. Bullying, cruelty and insensitivity may actually be on the rise as we shelter behind our screens. We all witness how cruelty and callousness divides a community – even if it is unintentional. Where we had seen a child burst into tears, or innately sense a rebuff, social distancing has taken away these vital, often non-verbal social exchanges.

Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience, and walking in someone else’s shoes.  Empathetic children are less likely to bully others. The ability to show empathy is a life skill- if someone in your office does not receive a promotion you are expected to read the room and hold back your joy that you were promoted, if someone’s pet passes away you are expected to express sorrow- and when someone is in distress to ignore that distress does not win friends or make you a prospect for future management roles.

Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy.

Some children due to their own brain-based challenges do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions, they don’t have the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors.  These children, for whatever reason, do not understand how they come across.  Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.”

Teaching empathy must involve not only fostering a community to promote empathy and kindness but also coaching children individually to help guide them toward greater understanding of what kind and empathetic behavior looks like by modeling empathy and reinforcing it with all actions and messages children hear so they can learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

3 Tips to Teach Empathy to Your Child

  • Point out emotions and bring attention at the right time to the emotional experience of others and have conversations with your child about another person’s experience. In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings. For example, What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation?
  • Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior when he is rude or lacks empathy and ask him to interpret how his behavior made you feel. Ask your child, How do you think I feel when you correct me? What did you mean to do?
  • Guide children to look at what another person’s situation or point of view may be – rather than preaching to care about someone, help your child step into the shoes of his peer and ask your child questions to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings?

Some children naturally begin to demonstrate empathy as early as 12 months old; others struggle for whatever reason and may demonstrate rude and hurtful behavior. But the ability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with kindness is a life skill essential to help children be part of any group throughout their lives.

Read more about empathy

Learn more about the oblivious kid in the 2020 Parenting Palooza

 

 

Why Will No One Play with Me? made it to the Best ADHD Books of All Time

Why Will No One Play with Me? made it to the Best ADHD Books of All Time

 

I’m happy to announce that my book, “Why Will No One Play with Me?: The Play Better Plan to Help Kids Make Friends and Thrive”, made it to BookAuthority’s Best ADHD Books of All Time

BookAuthority collects and ranks the best books in the world, and it is a great honor to get this kind of recognition. Thank you for all your support!

Learn More about Why Will No One Play With Me?

The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

How to Work With a Teen Who Won’t Abide by COVID Rules

It will happen. Maybe more times than you would like. Your teen has had enough of the social distancing and refuses to obey the house rules. You know he is lonely and has a hard time making friends. Should you forbid an in-person union? Should you stay the course and try to guide him through the ups and downs of why being safe is so important? How do you know what to do next?

First, forbidding anything can be a tough call, and may backfire. Saying no can make it seem more attractive to your child. Plus, outward disapproval might put a strain on the relationship. Your child will most likely retreat. He doesn’t want to choose, but if he has to, the parent relationship will most likely suffer. You may experience your son spending more time in his room, and what communication you did have will be less.

Watching your child continue to make the wrong choices is heartbreaking. It’s not easy at this age. Right now, his peer group is one of the biggest factors influencing his choices and behaviors.

Consider why your child so desperately wants to visit with friends. Our goal as parents is for our children to make wise choices, however, ADHD teenagers can lack maturity and self-awareness. They often don’t make the most rational choices. Lack of self-awareness and social skills directly tracks back to these executive function weaknesses.

Talk to your son without judgment and harsh restrictions. Open up the lines of communication. For example, rather than outwardly forbidding the union, ask, “What do you enjoy doing with your friend?” “What do you like about him or her?” Helping teenagers examine the “why” will help you better accommodate his wishes.

This approach explains the difference between telling your daughter how to be and allowing her to look at what makes her happy. You are giving her the power to see whether or not her choices make good sense.

Take it slow
This is something that can happen over a series of open and collaborative conversations. The more you can hear his point of view while trying not to forbid or condemn, the more you increase your chances of helping your child reflect on his choices.

Think about your son’s mood and environment. Find a time when he is comfortable and in a good mood. Check your location. A more private setting might be just what he needs to feel comfortable opening up.

Here are a few more tips to consider before starting the conversation:

Hold back your feelings, listen more – Your son will open up more if he feels heard. By holding back judgment, you are creating an atmosphere where your son feels safe to talk and will be more likely to come to you again if there is a problem.

Look at things from your son’s perspective – One of the hardest parts of being a teen is thinking that nobody understands you. The more you step into your son’s shoes and hear his perspective, the more you can give him what he needs.

Reflect, clarify, and be curious – Paraphrase what your teen says and then repeat it back to him. When you do this, you show empathy, and you can clarify your child’s concerns. Be curious and ask questions. By understanding his perspective, you are inviting him to open up more.

Don’t impose your family values or goals on the situation – Keep your agenda in mind as you continue to talk through the importance of making good decisions. Do not assume you understand your son’s reasons. Try not to apply pressure by imposing your values and goals on the situation. The end goal here is to keep your child talking and showing him the confidence that you know he can learn, grow, and make good choices.

 

Caroline Maguire is a mother, coach for families, and author of the new book Why Will No One Play With Me? The Play Better Plan To Help Children of All Ages Make Friends and Thrive. You can follow her parenting advice and purchase the book at carolinemaguireauthor.com.

 

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