Things You Wish You Knew @ 17 #6

Social skills build inner confidence & happiness

Social skills are a MUST in constructing our mental health and well-being and can lead us toward a happy and fulfilling life. Too bad they’re not often taught to us while we’re growing up! There may be a number of reasons for this: Building on #5 “Challenge everything you’ve been taught” Have you been taught social skills? Nowadays, they are not taught for a number of reasons such as both parents working, parents not having been properly taught social skills by their parents, etc. If you don’t have social skills, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You simply never learned them. I never did!

As I mentioned in a previous lesson, the only means of communicating I knew was sarcasm and short, abrupt responses. The strange part of this is that I always thought I was being funny and therefore accepted. I was once referred to as a “Bitch on Wheels” at a hotel job where I ran the banquet department (and my perception of my behavior was that I was friendly!). One day, a friend once asked me, “Why are you always so angry?” The truth was I didn’t know I always appeared angry. I simply never looked at myself – do you? Also, in reflection, I lived with a sense of never feeling comfortable or at ease. I was always nervous about what I was going to say next and never really paid attention to what the other person was saying, and I guess this always projected as anger.

So what are social skills anyway? They are the tools that enable us to effectively and harmoniously interact and communicate with others, or more simply put, how to get along with others. Most of us can easily come up with examples of ineffective social skills, where we practiced them or witnessed them in others. Maybe it’s laughing at the most inappropriate time, like when someone says something serious or sad. Maybe it’s not letting someone finish a sentence before you finish it for them. Maybe it’s always getting criticized for certain actions. Maybe it’s not getting the job promotion you want despite the fact that you think you do a better job than the person who is getting promoted, and telling everyone else about it.

That’s something that happened to me for the first time when I was only 16. I was working at a very busy McDonald’s and my job was “on the grill.” I was responsible for cooking all the burgers and the buns at the same time. I was good—I could “turn-lay” those burgers faster than anyone in the place. Then came evaluation time when I received a raise of only five cents an hour and a colleague, who couldn’t turn lay even half as fast as I did, received a fifteen-cent raise. I promptly approached the manager about this grave injustice, demanding to know why my co-worker received a higher raise. Without hesitation, my boss replied, “Because he never complains and you complain about everything.” Ugh, my world reduced down to the size of that nickel. As I write about that moment, I recognize that I’ve never had the courage to ask for a raise since that day. Wow!

Looking back, that pivotal point in time stifled me because I didn’t know how to process that information with the other person, and I sure didn’t understand or accept the truth of what was said to me. I’m pretty sure I quit that job soon after the snub, clinging to the belief that they didn’t value me the way I deserved to be valued when the reality was that I didn’t have the social skills to value others.

Social skills include both verbal and non-verbal communication. Some examples:

  • The ability to listen, follow directions and refrain from speaking.
  • The ability to feel empathy and connect with others.
  • The ability to share and join in activities, and to ask for permission and wait your turn.
  • The ability to appropriately ask for help and to apologize to others when needed.
  • The ability to take full responsibility for your mistakes or shortcomings in what you do and how you act, and to receive constructive feedback (such as my five-cent raise!)
  • The ability to recognize and respect another person’s point of view, and to express concerns or differences in a non-threatening manner.

Here’s an illustration of what happens to those who lack many of these basic social skills. A college student shares an apartment with two other people. One of the others never does their own dishes, is constantly eating the others’ food supplies, never takes out the trash and invites their partner over without telling the other two. It’s clear that this person is seriously lacking in social skills. What about the other two roommates? An example of healthy living would be for them to have a conversation (not a confrontation) with the slacker to express their concern over the lack of respect being shown them. However, neither wants speak up because they lack the confidence-self-worth-and skill to speak up and respectfully confront the other person—they’re afraid they would hurt the other person’s feelings and cause tension in the apartment. Hello! There’s already tension, and for a 20-year-old this tension can compound itself and rear its head in so many ugly ways, such as turning to substance use for relief, or depression, anxiety or even panic disorders. The next thing you know, one of those quiet roommates may stumble into another relationship that involves power and control without even knowing it, until their life becomes unmanageable and they have a moment of clarity wondering 20 years later “Where the heck am I and what happened to me?” Then, they spend the next 10 years in therapy and support groups trying to unlearn everything they thought was right!

Yes, if I knew what good social skills were when I was 17, it could have saved us a whole lot of trouble. But no matter how old you are or where you are in life, you can learn and practice the kind of social skills that will bring you less worry, less stress and more room in your head for positive things!

Just for Today – Can you pause before you speak and think about what you’re going to say? Ask yourself; is it kind or is it necessary.

Just for Today – When you do speak, can you choose words that are well thought out and coming from a place of love?

Just for Today – Can you speak up for yourself, in a respectful manner?

The Combination Notebook:

Choices – You decide if you want to build your social skills and awareness.


I wish I knew what social skills were when I was 17 because having them would have kept me out of a lot of trouble and I would have been able to manage and redirect personal inner conflict.

Today, I practice keeping my mouth closed and when I do say something I am diligent in having my words come from place inside of me that is conscious, thought out, and from love. There are certainly times when I think about being inappropriate either through an action or with words, however, choosing the aforementioned always keeps me out of trouble in mind, body and spirit.

Choice Wheel by Ginger RossChoices – You decide if you want to build your social skills and awareness

Perception – Open your mind to other possibilities-often times we are so unaware of the lies we live with, even the one’s we tell ourselves

Expectations – Let go of them

Beliefs – Question their validity and reality

Energy – Choose the type of energy you want to absorb and exude (negative or positive).

Posted in Living Life On Purpose, The Choice Challenge, Things You Wish You Knew @ 17.

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