How to sharpen social skills when working from home

Social skills can be affected when left unused for long periods of time.

Dictionary.apa.org defines social skills as “a set of learned abilities that enable an individual to interact competently and appropriately in a given social context.” Source: https://dictionary.apa.org/social-skills

Social skills include communication skills like verbal and nonverbal communication, written communication, listening skills, and interpersonal skills (including the ability to cooperate and get along with others).

“The most commonly identified social skills in Western cultures include assertiveness, coping, communication and friendship-making skills, interpersonal problem solving, and the ability to regulate one’s cognitions, feelings, and behavior,” says dictionary.apa.org.

Social skills are important because with better social skills come better relationships and career prospects.

Indeed the quality of life can be greatly impacted by one’s social skills or lack of. Friendship, relationships, and job prospects are all affected by one’s ability to communicate and interact with another.

The pandemic caused a heavy hit to social skills

In addition to social skills affected by changes in lifestyles due to factors such as the prevalence of nuclear families, social media and communication apps (texting instead of speaking, for example), and a reduction of face to face meetings, lockdowns and restrictions related to Covid 19 pandemic further affected social skills.

Especially as people were required to lockdown and work remotely from home for long periods of time, and face to face interaction reduced massively due to social distancing requirements, social skills may have been affected.

Various studies show that people who are not regularly interacting with others risk impairing their social skills. See https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201022-how-solitude-and-isolation-can-change-how-you-think

People can suffer from skill fade as well as feelings of anxiety and depression due to isolation, which can affect social skills. https://www.salon.com/2021/02/04/is-the-pandemic-making-our-social-skills-decay-psychologists-think-so/

Negative experience can increase the problem

And while some skill loss might be temporary or even minor, fear, anxiety, and social awkwardness can worsen the problem. The fear of social mishaps and awkwardness can make a person avoid social interaction, which can prolong and magnify social skill loss.

Thus, the best thing to do is to not only to prevent skill fade but to prevent circumstances which can increase negative self-image. This includes negative self talk, incorrect perception of oneself, and social anxiety.

Here are a few things to do to prevent and undo the effects of social isolation on social skills:

  • Meditation and positive affirmation daily but especially prior to a meeting or social interaction. The human mind tends to fill with negative thoughts which can affect one’s performance and behavior and increase social anxiety. Filling the mind with positive affirmations and expectations prevents anxiety and negative expectations from affecting social performance. When done just prior to a meeting or socializing event, the result is a positive mindset, which in turn produces a positive experience.
  • Take a few moments a day to meet or speak to someone, such as a neighbor, even if it is from a distance, from behind closed doors, or via the phone. Daily interactions, even brief, can help improve social skills.
  • Listening has a positive effect on language skills so listen to a video or lecture several times a week to improve speaking skills.
  • Read something positive or constructive daily. This not only helps reading skills but also improves positivity.
  • Write something daily. The act of writing composition increases confidence in one’s abilities which in turn increases positive thinking and self-image.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be totally alone. Connect with someone regularly, whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or other acquaintances.

Finally, social skills are more affected by poor self image and fear. Making the human interaction experience regular and common will help to reduce skill fade and social anxiety.

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