Learning good social skills is not just vital to having healthy interactions with people all through your life, it also helps you to NOT become a target for a potential bully.
Practicing good social skills is of utmost importance at any age. It benefits the person remembering to use the skills and it benefits the people who interact with that person. For example, people appreciate it when someone displays good manners like using words like please, thank you, you’re welcome, and excuse me. Almost any toddler knows that if you state to them, “Say the magic word,” you are trying to elicit the word ‘please’. Parents also work hard to teach their child to say thank you when being offered food, presents, compliments, and any kind service.
Displaying good etiquette
Some social skills are looked on as displaying good etiquette such as holding a door open for a female or for an older person. If you are sitting on a bus and a pregnant lady or an elderly person boards, it is considered to be good etiquette to offer that person your seat. When sitting at a dining table, it is proper etiquette to put your napkin in your lap, to say words like “Please pass the salt,” to chew with your mouth closed, to not put your elbows on the table, and to not talk with your mouth full. Other forms of good etiquette include shaking hands when you meet someone, knocking first before entering a room or somebody’s house, asking if you might have a drink or something to eat when visiting somebody’s home rather than helping yourself, standing when an older person or a lady enters the room, calling adults by their title such as Mr. ___ or Mrs. ___ rather than using their first name unless they invite you to do otherwise, and not fidgeting when other people are talking to you.
One person talks at a time since nobody likes to be interrupted
Many teachers enforce the rule, “One person talks at a time.”
The teacher might explain, “Part of good communication is being an active listener when it is somebody else’s turn to talk. For example, if Tom is talking, everyone should be totally focused in on and actively listened to Tom. The same goes when any of you are talking or I am talking.”
The teacher would stress to his or her students that it is good manners or good etiquette to practice active listening when someone is talking. One way you demonstrate that you are an active listener is that you make eye contact with that person. Another way you demonstrate active listening is that you are not shuffling papers, tapping pencils, or fidgeting. People like to know that other people are truly listening. They do not appreciate it if you are so busy trying to formulate what you are going to say that you barely pay attention to their words or that you interrupt them when they are mid-sentence or mid-thought.”
The teacher could go on to explain, “One way you can make certain they are truly finished speaking and not simply pausing to breathe is to wait about 3 to 4 seconds before you begin speaking. Neither your teachers, parents, family members, employers (should you have a job), nor your friends appreciate being interrupted. That makes them feel de-valued and unimportant. So one of the biggest and most important social skills you can practice and police is to make certain you do not interrupt others when they are talking or are on the phone.”
The moral is: Do not interrupt others when they talk.
Use the right volume when you speak
Another social skill that is important to practice is monitoring the volume in which you speak. Sometimes using a softer voice can get other people to pay more attention to you; however, some people find that to be very annoying. It is wearying if you constantly have to say, “What did you say?” if someone speaks with too low of a volume. It causes strain to their back as they have to constantly lean forward in order to try to comprehend your words. It is one thing if the state of your health does not allow you to speak loud as it is too much of a strain on your lungs. On the other hand, if you are fully capable of projecting your voice and don’t out of laziness or wishing to manipulate people, you will find that people will find reasons to avoid getting in conversations with you.
Speaking too loudly is another annoying trait that some people display. You probably recall teachers using the phrase, “Use your inside voices.” When you are standing within a short distance from each other, it is not necessary to yell or to speak loudly. You can hurt or damage their ear drums. Naturally, if you are on a playground or a track or field event, you probably do have to use loud voices, but it is not necessary to yell or speak overly loud when you are inside. You need to speak in a volume that is loud enough for others to hear clearly without being too loud. If you’re not sure if your volume is appropriate, you can always ask if the listener needs you to speak more loudly or more softly.
Talking speed and tone of voice
The speed at which you talk is another social skill that it is important to develop. If you talk too fast, people have trouble understanding you. If you talk too slowly, you risk boring them or putting them to sleep. It is also important to vary the tone of your voice. Have you ever been around someone who speaks in a monotone voice? You probably found it hard to listen to that person for very long without getting distracted.
Don’t get inside another person’s bubble
Another social skill of vital importance is to be conscious of the distance that you stand from another person. Perhaps you have heard others say, “Don’t get inside my bubble.” People feel invaded if you stand too close to them when you are talking. A visual clue they will often display if they feel uncomfortable is that they will back up. Keep a comfortable distance between you and that other person. As the author of “Social Distance” states, a comfortable distance between two conversing people is about two to four feet. Getting any closer could either suggest that you are boyfriend-girlfriend or husband and wife or that you are trying to invade his or her space for purposes of threatening or intimidating that person.
Make sincere apologies
Another social skill that is very important to develop is making sincere apologies when warranted. If you were accidentally or purposely rude to someone, it is not only good manners to tell them that you are sorry, it is a first step toward reestablishing an interpersonal connection with that person once again. In a court of law, judges often issue lighter sentences to defendants who display signs of feeling remorse and regret for his or her wrong-doing. People can usually tell if that remorse is sincere or simply said for the sake of trying to get out of trouble. It can be challenging to swallow our pride by making apologies to others. Some people would rather end their friendship or relationship with that person than to say those all important words, “I’m really sorry.” Honing the ability to make sincere apologies is an extremely important social skill to develop. It will benefit you your whole life through.
Return borrowed items
Another important social skill is to return things that you borrow. If you asked to borrow a pencil, be certain to return it. If you had to sharpen the pencil to the point where it is now too short to be of much service, then offer the loaner a replacement pencil instead. If you asked to borrow an item of clothing, return it to the other person after you have made the time to wash it. If you asked to borrow paper from another, be certain to have paper available to offer them at a future time. If you borrowed money, make certain that you return it in a timely fashion.
Don’t monopolize other people’s attention
Children find themselves competing for the limited time and attention of the significant adults in their lives. These young ones do not always know the most appropriate ways to get this attention. Some children are so needful of receiving attention that they will act out in negative ways as they find that any kind of attention, positive or negative, is better than being ignored. Have you ever been at a restaurant or store and heard a child saying, “Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? …” – ad nauseam? The child will continue calling his or her mother’s name until she finally ends her conversation with another adult or stops paying attention to the task at hand to finally respond, usually in exasperation, “What?” This child has learned that the only way to be the recipient of brief moments of his or her parent’s focus is to exhibit less-than-pleasant behavior.
When these needier children enter school, they sometimes bring to the classroom some of these same inappropriate social skills. They notice that some of the kids, the ones who smile and laugh with confidence, receive the lion’s share of the teacher’s attention as well. Other kids in the class also gravitate toward these more easy-going children as people are naturally attracted to being around sunshiny individuals. So the needier children start acting out. They might cry, misbehave, pretend helplessness or whine that they don’t understand the teacher’s directions, or display some kind of rude or mean behavior. It’s almost like they’re enacting the role of a parasite trying to leech out what it is most in need of, the nourishment of being nurtured and cared for. If the teacher can learn to ignore the negative behavior and only pay attention to the child when he or she exhibits positive behavior, the child would soon learn more appropriate habits. Unfortunately, the teacher and the parent default to responding to the child with exasperated and impatient voices. They end up focusing a great deal of attention on this child and ignoring the children who always behave appropriately. So now this needy child has received the message that exhibiting negative behavior is almost guaranteed to now give him or her the lion’s share of the adult’s attention and the other kids who act as witnesses.
So another important social skill is to make certain that when it is your opportunity to talk, that you do not monopolize the conversation. People will enjoy listening to you up to a point; however, they want their opportunity to share and be listened to as well.
What we can learn from alpha, beta, and omega wolves
If you watch wolf pack documentaries, you are probably aware that wolves have rank and social status. As the author of Wolf Park.org describes, the most dominant wolves, known as “the Alpha Wolves, are not necessarily the strongest, the fastest, or the smartest. High rank has more to do with attitude and confidence than size or strength.” In other words, these wolves know how to use good social skills with one another. The author of Wolf Country.net discusses the importance of the wolf howl. The howling allows the wolves to let a lost wolf know their location, it helps define territory, it alerts the rest of the pack that a food source has been found (i.e., a “fresh kill”), and it helps cement the bond of the wolf pack. Most interestingly, “during such choral sessions, wolves will howl at different tones and varying pitches, which tends to prevent a listener from accurately estimating the number of wolves involved. This concealment of numbers makes a listening rival pack wary of what action to take” such as making an attack or trying to invade their territory. Using good social skills is important among wolves, and it is of vital importance during interactions between people.
Practicing good social skills helps you foster stronger friendships
All these social skills and more are important skills to polish so that you can get along with others. The more you can foster your social skills, the stronger your friendships. The stronger your friendships, the more chance that you have allies to watch your back, should a bully decide they wish to target you as their next victim.
Practicing bad social skills invite the attention of bullies
For those individuals who display bad social skills and bad manners and etiquette, the more likely that people will find them annoying to be around. Then if a bully sets his or her sites on that person, they are less likely to have allies to watch their back and to protect them.
Some YouTube videos to watch with your child
In the resource section, some YouTube shows have been included that demonstrate good manners and social skills that are of importance during our interpersonal connections with others. Parents, watch these videos with your children. Discuss them. Praise your children for the use of any social skills that they currently utilize on a regular basis. You can do role-playing with your children to help them practice learning how to use the social skills they do not currently possess. This will help them with their interactions with friends, future significant others, teachers, administrators, law enforcement personnel, future bosses, and in all aspects of their lives. Best of all, it will also help your children to be less of a target for potential bullies.
A fun activity for parent and child
To further reinforce the importance of using good posture, play these two songs about bullies. Learn the songs and sing them together. Practice the skills indicated in the songs to make your child much more bully-proof. Here’s the links:
1. Click this link for “Anti-Bullying song for kids #1: My Bully Buster Song” on rootshed.com
2. Click this link for Another Bully Buster Song on YouTube. (Song is embedded within this article.)
Now that your child knows that practicing his or her social skills can help him or her achieve a happier life now and in the long run, it may feel like a worthier activity to practice and perfect.
Please note: This article was originally posted in 2009 under the former publishing tool. When it was discovered that it had some missing links and videos, etc., I edited it and re-published it as you see above.
Return to Hub page for “Avoid Bullying with these 12 tips”
- Wolf Country.net – The Wolf Pack
- Wolf Park.org – Frequently Asked Questions About Wolves
- Social distance
Watch these YouTube movies about using good manners:
Preview them first to make certain they are appropriate for your child to watch.
1. Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills
2. Manners: They’re Not Just For Kids
3. “Mr. Manners Matters” – Kids Dancing to Good Manners Song
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