Ways to improve your social thinking

Human beings are social beings. We almost always seek the company of others. Even though we value our privacy, yet we wish to stay connected with others. The basis of human interaction has been explained historically with the help of several interpretations.

Plato views it as arising out of a need to meet our wants. Since one person is often insufficient to take care of all his wants, collective functioning becomes essential. According to Hobbes, without social interaction, man is solitary, poor, nasty and brutish. Darwin’s theory of evolution has the concept of social adaptation for survival. Social behavior has been the subject of immense interest all along the ages. At no time is an individual separate from his social context.


Other people are central to our lives because we are in a social relationship with them. The presence of others may be real or imagined. Many people are interested to know about the social interaction, both verbal and nonverbal. We are interested to know the behavior in groups, social attitudes and persuasion, interpersonal attraction and social relationships, leadership and social influence, aggression and anger, altruism and helping behavior, attribution, and social cognition. People related to business and sales are more interested to know about the nuances of bargaining and negotiation, conformity and social influence process, cooperation and competition, group decision making, group dynamics, leadership and team performance, obedience to authority, prejudice and intergroup conflict, self-presentation and impression management, social learning and socialization.


Social behavior and social thoughts can be better understood from the following findings of a study about people with ASD( autism spectrum disorders). Our friends are people who make us feel good about ourselves. While this is a simple truth, creating that friendship is a complex process, especially for individuals with ASD, with their pervasive social learning challenges.


Another truth, one learned from years of working with high-functioning individuals with ASD and discussing their social desires with them, is that all persons on the autism spectrum want people to be friendly to them. They desire friendships and dislike having enemies. They are no different from neurotypical people in their desire to create and maintain healthy relations. The difference is in their brain’s ability to negotiate the subtlety of keeping relations friendly.


Children and adults with ASD have difficulty interpreting other’s intended social messages. They also more frequently send miscues to other about their social intentions. Even many higher functioning students with Asperger syndrome go unaware of how other people perceive them, and the unintentional message their social actions send. They may be oblivious to the fact that others see them as sullen and do not desire their friendship because they fail to initiate or respond to a social greeting.


It is important to break down these complex concepts into concrete, logical steps. To begin with, let us understand when and where social thinking is involved. It is a common misconception, especially among students that social thinking is participating in social interactions, such as playing games with friends or hanging out with friends. It makes much discussion for students to begin to realize that social thinking is active any time they share space with others, even if they are not in direct communication. How many of us move our shopping carts out of the way of a fellow shopper walking down the same aisle of a grocery store? That is social thinking.


Social thinking is active not just when we are in the company of others, but anytime we are thinking about others. When alone, We spend most of our tile to analyze past social interactions we had with others in our mind. We wonder if the other person perceived our intentions and actions in the way we want them to perceive. We make a call or send an e-mail if we find any discrepancy later and clarify with a message or write an apology if we miscommunicated something wrong. All this activity are related to social thinking.


Our overall thinking time is dominated by thinking social than analytical in a day. We not only use social thinking just when we interact with others but before and after a social encounter. Social thought guides us to shape our behavior and get good name from others or to persuade others. If we would like to help students to become better social thinkers, teaching a social skill is necessary but not sufficient. We must also teach about empathy and social thoughts to better understand situations from other person’s point of view and to remove common biases which influence social interactions.

The useful strategy for middle school and older students is to follow the below guidelines.

  1. When two people encounter each other, they both would think about each other. I have thought about you; you have thought about me.
  2. Everyone should consider the other person’s intention and motivations behind their actions. If their actions or the way they speak seem suspicious, the person should be monitored more closely. You should keep in mind that the other person also observes and evaluates our actions and our real intentions.
  3. Every person examines what the other may be thinking about him. Is it positive, negative or neutral? Is there a history between us upon which we weigh our thoughts.?
  4. I monitor my behavior and possibly modify them to keep the other person thinking about me such that I can persuade them. Also, they are also constantly doing the same and trying to influence and persuade me.


The above four things happen within milliseconds and at an intuitive level below our immediate consciousness.This is based on the assumption that every human being desires others to have good thoughts about them, even when their social encounters are brief. Embedded in this assumption is its opposite. We do not want people to have bad thoughts about us. IT can be challenging for people with ASD to perceive that others have different thoughts and weird thoughts about others. Most people with ASD never stop to consider that they too have bad thoughts about other people.

Many people appreciate the role that social memories play in day-to-day interaction. We all have social, emotional memories based on how they make us think about them over time. Those people whose actions impinge positive thoughts in other people’s minds are more likely to be considered friendly and impact others than weird and inconsistent thoughts in the minds of others. The reason why we call a friend or coworker to apologize for our actions is to foster better social relationship as well to have better personal of ourselves in their mind.

About Prabakaran Thirumalai 339 Articles
Blogger on topics including Life Skills such as Learning, Thinking, Emotional Intelligence, Motivation, and Social Skills.

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