Social Intelligence is the need of the hour. In my last blog, I emphasized on the importance of developing the social skills right from the start. Let me elaborate as to why this need has turned out to be a desperate one in today’s age!
Our kids are living in a world, where the social interaction paradigm has shifted from the real to the virtual world. The result is a visible or rather a sorry state of social skills in children and teens. Real face-to-face interactions have been substituted with chat groups, social media forums etc. The social media has brought about a lot of good things including social visibility and reach, yet it has offered a gamut of challenges to the kids as well. This virtual world, has suddenly complicated a lot of issues for our kids. Social media has exposed the kids to a lot more adult complications, much before they are emotionally ready.
It is therefore that our children are facing a bigger setback when it comes to forging new relationships and sustaining the same. In an age where, where acceptance and belonging should be felt in relationships, these are merely getting boiled down to ‘friend requests’ either ‘accepted’ or ‘blocked’! As easy as that!
Although terms like “Likes”, “Following”, “Share” “Hashtag” suggests the status of an equation today and I’m sure gives a lot of thrill and excitement to the young generation, but it’s spoiling the fun of quality time! And why not! A text, post or a message is bereft of a tone or a feeling. Hence, no matter how much etiquette is put into the words, it won’t have the same impact as a face-to-face greeting and meeting!
In the virtual world, one might be becoming socially active online, yet there is something which one is not learning in process. It’s the value of understanding or empathizing with a person’s feelings or emotions. A real face to face interaction allows two people, to gauge each other’s facial expressions, body language along with the actual words to arrive at a conclusion. Plus a physical social interaction allows the people to bond, feel, empathize and emote at a much deeper and a sensitive level. Hence, getting along or being able to manage emotions to bond and strengthen an equation generates a feeling, which no social media forum can provide. A heightened amount of social skills becomes a possibility with frequent real time social interactions and this is what eventually makes one socially intelligent.
This ability to get along with a wide variety of people, to thrive in a range of relationships and settings is what Social Intelligence is. This kind of intelligence allows a person to understand each other’s feelings and emotions and then use them to take informed decisions and actions. Be it an individual task or a team work, socially intelligent people, know how to get their work done, because of this highly developed skill.
Basic human traits of compassion and empathy cannot be learnt online, but definitely offline. Only healthy kids, sans all the social media baggage, will learn to make that healthy social start. They will be to navigate the complex social world with real face time interaction and develop the social skills they need to sail through. Whether it is for finding solutions during conflicts with others, putting an opinion across without hurting the sentiments of others, demonstrating respect and love for the feelings of others to adapting to social situations to manage a situation better, socially intelligent people know how to turn the tables to their favor and create a win-win situation!
To many it might be the new ‘fad’ term that has come into being. However, research also proves that people who are socially and emotionally intelligent tend to enjoy a fuller life. It is owing to their strong social support system, which in turn is fueled by a favorable and strong set of social skills.
In fact, ‘Emotional health in childhood is the driving force behind an individual’s future happiness’, has been a statement, declared by a team of UK’s “Happiness experts”, who claimed this after doing a short study at the Wellbeing research program at the London School of Economics’ Center for Economic Performance.
Social intelligence and Emotional intelligence go rather hand in hand. However, while academics and extra-curricular is much talked about subject, social and emotional skills lag behind because of the traditional approach of some parents. I cannot blame the parents too because the need to gel well with people, be respectful towards others opinions is as much of a challenge to some parents as it is for their children. Arrogance has become the new cool, hence even the parents are not bothering much, believing its doing good to them! Sad, yet true!
As an individual and as a parent, I would appreciate if my child turned out to be socially intelligent. I know that it cannot happen overnight, but with small steps. Therefore, these are the baby steps that we can take for ensuring a healthy social start for our kids.
- Empathize, empathize and empathize. This will help a child to understand and address his own emotions. This is crucial for him because unless he is feeling good, he will not behave well.
- Don’t force children, especially toddlers to share. It can have a rebound effect. Also kids need to feel secure by owning something before they get in the mind frame to share. Talk about taking turns rather, by deciding as to how long the turn should last. Help him wait. In worst scenario, just be with your child during the meltdown and talk slowly, yet make him understand that you are on his side. It helps exponentially.
- Introduce the concept of noticing how others feel as early as you can. This way the child will notice too and learn gradually to read other people’s emotions.
- Support your child’s friendships and constantly reinforce your child’s new friendships. Try and talk about them, create opportunities for your child to play with them. This will help your child to address a lot of “getting-along” skills.
- Model respectful relating as a parent. A child will treat others just like the way you treat him. Hence, model it the way you want him to do for others. This includes giving criticism in private, finding tactful ways of addressing a concern without hurting his emotions and working out to a more peaceful resolution.
- Teaching the importance of people and relationships can start right at home with parents, grandparents or other caregivers in the family. Remember the kids will learn from our behavior towards our own parents and other people in the family and society, so we have to present the right picture.
- Teaching kids to express their needs and wants without attacking the other person will require you to rephrase some of your own harsh comments, in the face of conflict or crisis. For instance, instead of “You are a bad boy”, you can substitute the phrase with “I did not like what you did, so I want you to do…” will work well. Similarly, come up with more statements that will put across your point in a stern way, yet keeping you and your child’s sanity in check!
- Help your child to repair any disagreements or misunderstandings in relationships without ending them. This will go a long way in helping them come up with their own solutions to problems in relationships. For children as small as toddler, make sure you stay close by, but don’t intervene unless there is physical attacking of sorts. Also set clear limits on physical aggression.
The ability to manage one’s own emotions and relate well is claimed to be more critical to your child’s future happiness than academic or financial success. In fact Social and Emotional intelligence has been found to be more important than a high academic IQ.
So while, you are stilling believing this “Social intelligence” article to be just a new rage, I would suggest you do a more basic observation by looking around. I’m sure, you will feel that it’s high time that we, the parents embrace this seemingly new, yet necessary subject and do the needful. If we understand the need to become socially intelligent ourselves first, we will successfully lay the first step towards making our children, our gen next, socially intelligent as well.