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Social Skill Autopsies

“When red-haired people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.”       Mark Twain

 I was fascinated by the discussion about “social skill autopsies” by Richard Levoy.  The term is a bit macabre, yet embodies the concept – a thorough examination (after the fact) to determine the cause and manner of (the social death) and to evaluate any (negative effects) that may be present.  I had never thought about the fact that I raised two girls and never once had to do such a breakdown of social cues for them.  Certainly we all can recall incidences when we’ve committed “social suicide,” a total misread of the cues at the time, but nothing from which we couldn’t recover or understand immediately what we had done.  Yet having to break that incident down into finite detail would have been both painful and insightful.

We were spending time with our daughter’ s new friend that’s a boy today, and I couldn’t help but think about the conversation regarding the way to get a social interaction going  is through asking questions.  The secret is to do it without it feeling like an interrogation.  When you’re talking with someone for the first time in this context, I’m sure it feels like n interrogation.  And, to be honest, being the parent of young woman, it kind of is.  I just kept thinking “what would this interaction be like if one of us were LD?”   I was performing the autopsy in my head.  I was also chuckling to myself as I was conducting ‘self talk’ to break down the situation.  What would I say to someone if we were watching a re-run of the convention and trying to break down our facial expressions a d body language clues throughout our conversation.  I cannot imagine a life that required me to do that for myself.

The two individuals I interviewed had very different takes on the impact of their LD on their social skills.  The adult with dyslexia talked about her situation much like Reiff did in this week’s readings: spending so much time and energy trying to sort through academic issues that social development did not occur.  Fortunately for her, the school she attended in grades 6-9 recognized this and taught how to also use social skills.  She is a very successful hair stylist. The other individual was never formally taught social skills and to this day her ADD causes here to misread cues unless she is able to asses the situation in her head, causing hurtful social faux pas to occur for her.  It remains painful to her even as a 40 year old.

It’s funny to think about stopping to perform a social skill autopsy in the middle of a conversation.  This is the content of very funny movies, because most of us cannot understand the severity of it.  Would I do so for a friend that needed that feedback?  Sure.  But how do I know when to take out the scalpel and when to chalk it up to human nature?


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