Tips for developing social skills - connecting with others

Friends connecting
At every age, people who feel connected to others tend to be healthy physically and psychologically. College students are no exception: Those who have a supportive, readily available network of relationships are less psychologically distressed and more satisfied with life.

The opposite of connectedness is social isolation, a major risk factor for illness and early death. Individuals with few social contacts face two to four times the mortality rate of others. The reason may be that their social isolation weakens the body’s ability to ward off disease. Medical students with higher-than-average scores on a loneliness scale had lower levels of protective immune cells. The end of a long-term relationship—through separation, divorce, or death—also dampens immunity.

It is part of our nature as mammals and as human beings to crave relationships. But invariably we end up alone at times. Solitude is not without its own quiet joys—time for introspection, self-assessment, learning from the past and looking towards the future. Each of us can cultivate the joy of our company, of being alone without crossing the line and becoming lonely.

Tips for developing social skills

  • If you want to get to know someone you see on campus or at work, write down what you want to say and rehearse on your own or with a friend.
  • Observe and copy the behavior of people who handle social situations well, perhaps those who make clear what they want without being obnoxious.
  • Every 2 weeks, invite someone to accompany you on an inexpensive outing, such as a visit to a museum.
  • When you’re with others, focus on them and what they’re saying. Try not to think about how you look or what you’re saying.

On any matter relating to your health or well-being, please check with an appropriate health professional.
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