Blogs / Speech Therapy
Our students & parents hear us frequently talk about the importance of social thinking, social groups, and social skills. This article from the Social Thinking blog is a great explanation of why we see this as critical to the growth of our students. Speech therapy is not just about our students talking, it is about seeing them have rich, full lives in every respect.
Social Media, the Social Mind and Social Thinking
By Michelle Garcia Winner
They say the two things we can’t avoid in life are death and taxes. Actually, there’s a third thing – social skills. Throughout life we are surrounded by people. Those people have thoughts and emotions about those with whom they share space. For us all to feel safe and meet our immediate goals, we depend on other people to regulate their behavior in a manner that allows that to happen. In turn, we know we have to do the same.
Whether we are walking down a street, waiting in a doctor’s office, or eating at a restaurant, our ability to do the things we need to do is dependent on those who are near us. We don’t expect a stranger to walk up and hug us, the people waiting in the doctor’s office to yell at us, or for diners in the restaurant to walk by our table and take the uneaten food off our plate as we leave our table. How is it that we all cooperate so well together? We use a hard-wired part of our brain called our social mind.
Without your active awareness, when you are in the company of others there’s another social goal operating in the background: that people won’t have weird or uncomfortable thoughts about you. We like people to have normal or even good thoughts about us. To achieve this goal we monitor what we’re doing, what we’re saying, the nonverbal messages we’re sending with our eyes, our gestures, or our body language, and adjust as needed. We self-regulate our behaviors.
Inside our minds, however, we may not be as cool, calm, or collected as our bodies may suggest. Our minds may be filled with activity – not only about what’s happening in the situation, but also with thoughts about how to behave so we don’t stand out in a negative way. This process is the heart of what I describe as using your “Social Thinking and related social skills.” Many people might call this being polite. But the behaviors associated with politeness are a subset of skills associated with a larger social concept that requires us to think about what other people expect from us and how they are thinking about us – which takes us right back to social thinking.
Maybe you never gave this idea much thought. For most of us, our everyday social thinking and social learning happens without a lot of serious contemplation. If you’re still unsure about how this social driving force relates to you, then try this: next time you’re in line at the grocery store, don’t just stand there. You need to check out; it’s your goal, so go for it. Totally disregard what others might think. If there are people in line in front of you, jump ahead of them. Push their groceries aside and unload your own. If you’re really into this experiment, look at them all and announce, “I just hate waiting in line, so I get to go first!” Do your thing; it’s all about you!
To read the rest of this article, including information about the social mind, social media, and social relationships, go to the social thinking blog here.