Keys of Social Communication: Big Picture

Nonverbal Communication as one of the keys to social communication. Being able to read, understand, and use nonverbal communication is definitely one of the foundational components of social communication and necessary to make the other ‘keys’ work. Today, we’re going to discuss another key feature of Social Communication, which is Big Picture Thinking. What I mean by Big Picture Thinking, is the ability to process information quickly, somewhat accurately, and as a whole for what’s going on both outside of us and inside of us. Most successful social communicators hold three basic components of Big Picture Thinking.

Gist Thinkers – This means that they can see the forest faster than they can see the trees in many different avenues. For example, reading a person’s full body (body language) requires getting the ‘gist’ of what that person is communicating nonverbally. Staying on topic in a conversation requires getting the ‘gist’ of the conversation without getting lost in the words. Being able to manage all the sensory information of environmental sounds, smells, how clothes fit on the body, etc, while reading the world around you, is another hallmark skill of Gist Thinkers. Fast Social Processors – This skill is important in making sure your social interactions move fairly smoothly. Fast Social Processors not only use their Gist Thinking skills to read a person’s body language, conversation, or context – they can then interpret what they see in a quick and accurate way. There are some people who can recognize someone’s body language – such as arms crossed, frown, brow wrinkled, etc, but they cannot quickly identify the emotion to know how to appropriately respond (perhaps by taking a step back away from that person J) Fast processing also includes a quick response time. Identifying the body language and then interpreting it are only two components – acting in an ‘expected’ period of time to it, is all part of what it takes to be an Effective and Efficient Social Communicator. Intuitive Regulators – Intuitive Regulators are people who are pretty good at recognizing their emotions and knowing how to handle them in a way that keeps people thinking the thoughts they want people thinking about them. In essence, it’s not only thinking “I’m angry.” It’s also realizing how angry, how you might respond physically or verbally to that anger, and making the adjustments necessary to help your anger ‘fit’ into your current environment. Basically, not ‘losing it’. It’s really so much more complex than we realize. We must recognize our emotion, grade its level, give ourselves ‘pep talks’ or ‘problem solving talks’ to decide how the emotion should manifest itself (if we are in a social situation at the time), gauge how those around us might respond, and then effectively control the physical responses we naturally have to the emotion within ourselves. LOTS of stuff to manage in a VERY short amount of time.

All three of these aspects of Big Picture Thinking must happen to support the many facets of social communication. It’s an amazingly fast, complex process, so there are plenty of moments when a socially-wired brain will guess wrong about a person’s intent, or not respond appropriately in conversation, or not predict the situation well, or not regulate his/her emotions to fit the needs of the environment around him/her (all these usually lead to some sort of conflict) – but the socially-wired thinker responds appropriate most of the time.

ALSO SEE: Keys of Social Communication: Nonverbal

So just imagine how a person who struggles with social communication might feel? If they have difficulty with any of the above three aspects, it will show up in their interactions. Thankfully, social communication skills can be taught life-long. If a person has particularly difficulty with Gist Thinking, therapy can include helping him/her ‘read the room, person, or situation’. If someone struggles with emotional regulation, there are therapy techniques out to help give visual representations to internal reactions, appropriate responses, and other supports. There are ways to teach the Keys of Social Communication. If you know of someone who has difficulty with reading and responding to the social world around them, please contact a local Psychologist, Occupational Therapist or Speech-Language Pathologist for support. We’re here to help! Some great resources on this Key of Social Communication are: |

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