I’ve talked a little bit about how I learned social skills in a crash course in the last year of high school and early parts of high school. And by ‘social skills’ I mean things from “wearing clothes properly” to “entering and exiting group conversations”. [Partial list here] It’s not unusual for people to ask how I did it. Right now…I don’t have an answer that’s terribly coherent, or particularly useful to people who want to do it themselves. I’m working on that.
In the meantime, here’s a list of things that definitely helped me pick up parts of the skills. They will not make you solve the problem of people and weird, unspoken social rules, but they might give you a sense of patterns and scripts and This Is A Fixable Thingness.
I took an adapted Toastmasters course during my senior year of high school,and it gave me a good deal of skill in handling being put on the spot, speaking confidently, and learning how to decrease the fidgets and filler words I was using. However, I think the most useful skill I picked up was the meta-skill of noticing how I was speaking, while I was speaking. Instead of having a number of conversational tics I couldn’t fix because I had no idea they were there, I could keep talking while also attending to the fact that I said “like” a lot, or was nodding too frequently.
Captain Awkward (and her Awkwardeer guest posters) have written an advice blog for years, and it is by far the best of its kind. In particular, I love it for scripts for interpersonal relationships, functioning at work during depressive times, and help with being socially skilled without losing yourself. (Confused by some of the references? Here’s a glossary.)
Breaking The Low Mood Cycle
The whole Social Interactions tag
PSA for the Shy, Maybe Queer, Maybe Bi, Maybe Asexual Ladies
Dr. Nerdlove writes for heterosexual men, but I found reading through the archives incredibly helpful. When I had no idea what was going on in social interactions (“What is flirting? Is it this? What if he’s not flirting and then I flirt at him?? Can you even do that?“) it was extremely useful to hear someone teaching each individual step of flirting. Instead of looking for that nebulous “flirting” thing, I could look for component parts: eye contact, standing closer, focus of attention. Further, when Nerdlove would say “and then women often do X in response to you doing Y” I learned that ohhh, that’s the expected response!
Social skills for autonomous people. The writer both writes out and works through complicated social situations to navigate (with any eye to non-neurotypical experiences) and answers reader questions. My current favorite is about asking for reassurance. Also good: learning self respect, romanticizing neurotypicality.
This is the only one on this list that costs money; a manual that yes, is meant for clinicians, and yes, meant for borderline personality disorder, but I’ve found it invaluable, despite neither being nor having the above. In particular, I suggest flipping immediately to the end of the book to use the worksheets, which teach skills like how to say no, and in what tone of voice to say no based on the situation.
-you’d like to get better at figuring out which emotions you’re having
-you’re good with mindfulness or meditation and don’t like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
-social skills/interactions are tricky or seem to have opaque rules (the book contains SO MANY explicit diagrams)
-you want to learn to expand your comfort zone!
-you’d like to change your level of emotional volatility or feeling like emotions happen to you and eat you alive.
Less useful if:
-you’ve never interacted with the idea of therapy (ie, your picture of therapy is not much more detailed than talking or couches)
-you have a strong preference for learning the theory or probing the root causes of your mental health
What resources have you used?