Despite current social isolation needed to keep you healthy, you are actually uniquely expanding crucial social skills the world needs.
We all know how important social skills are for children. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD defines social skills as the abilities necessary to get along with others and to create and maintain satisfying relationships. As a child, you learned these rules at home, in the classroom and on the playground. Children who use excellent social skills relate well to the people in their surroundings using accurate communication skills, empathy and behaviors. As a result, they are better able to succeed.
As an adult, you have also naturally focused using social skills on your immediate relationships like home, work, extended family and neighborhood.
The advent of a global pandemic requires a new social skillset: the ability to assess your personal impact on a whole, interdependent world of people. In order to do this, you have quickly expanded your imagination and thoughts.
During Covid19, the amount of thought required to safely do even the simplest things has been at times overwhelming.
Consider making a normal family meal. If you’re like me, in the past you would make a list, run to the store, grab a few things, bring them home and cook them. Voila!
Have you noticed that planning and making a meal is way more complicated than it was last year? First, you gather your grocery list as usual. Maybe you're lucky and have everything you need at home. But if you need to get groceries, your new social thinking clicks in. Are the possible consequences of shopping worth going out to grab an item or two you might need?
Is purchasing a lemon and parsley worth potentially endangering yourself or anyone else?
This is only the first of a network of thoughts involved in your new social awareness. Next, you contemplate whether it feels safer to go to the store or see if groceries can be delivered. Afterall, if you go to the store, you come in contact with many others. But, if you have someone shop for you, they come in contact with many others. They are one person in the store serving many consumers. Is that better? Is it fair to that person and their family?
Then, if you’re like me, your social thinking expands to the risk or wellbeing of everyone everywhere as you plan this one little meal.
- Am I being responsible toward the grocery employees who are stocking the store?
- What about the truck drivers who need to carry the food to the store or to my home; which is safer for them?
- Are people who grow or procure my food safe and cared for as they do their jobs?
- Should I raise my own food; will that help others stay well?
- On the other hand, if I don’t buy food from other places, will people starve?
- Is it crucial to use local businesses or more prudent to allow them time off?
- Which country is the stuff I'm buying from and are those people being exploited or endangered?
- Do I really need what I'm buying or will someone else need it more?
- How do my choices reflect my own privilege when others are unfairly negatively impacted?
New social skills blossom as you imagine your behavior's domino-effects on others.
Despite the fact that I’m a systems-trained therapist, I have never thought about my behaviors connecting to the lives of all others this much before. At first it was exhausting and a lack of accurate information about Covid19 made these decisions nearly impossible. But as time goes on, it feels more natural to look at choices in light of other's lives.
Here’s the good news: After some initial mind-blowing overwhelm, you can actually get used to living in a world in which you hold awareness that all of your actions realistically impact everyone else.
When it comes to our collective experience of Covid19, adults are learning to expand social skills to a global level in a whole new way. Illness as an immediate, shared, global experience has forced us to broaden our empathy, communication and behaviors to include as many people as possible. Adapting to this new social skill takes patience and practice, but just as you once learned it was not okay to steal your friend's snack out of their hand, once you see how everyone's life improves, it will feel wrong to ignore.
The fact is that some people will acquire this social skill and others will not. That’s how it is with all social skills! And it's easy to feel sad and frustrated when you notice people missing this opportunity.
But if you recognize these new ways of being, it’s important to simply embrace these social skills and expand upon them. The challenge will be to remain mindful that you are part of a whole and interdependent human race even when Covid19 is no longer your main concern. Why hold back when you have this opportunity to grow? Remember when you were a child, you did not discard your new found skills even when others around you had not learned them yet.