Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or Quiz Day, or List Day.
This Wednesday: Two lists about making new friends.
I’m a huge fan of Michael Thompson’s book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, so when I noticed that he was a co-author, with Lawrence Cohen and Catherine O’Neill, of Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems, I picked it up right away.
I saw the title of the introduction: “It All Started When She Hit Me Back…” Ah, I recognized that kind of claim! I needed no further persuasion to read the book (though my children, thankfully, have no particular social problems at the moment).
Given the title of the book, it’s no surprise that the authors discuss at some length the subject of friendship and how children learn to make and keep friends, and they include a list of “essential friendship skills.”
As I read this list, I was struck by how it could just as easily be applied to marriage or to work. These are the qualities a person wants to see in a spouse and in co-workers. They’re important in all kinds of circumstances.
According to these authors, the essential friendship skills are:
The enjoyment of the company of others
A capacity for reciprocity, turn taking, cooperation, and sharing
Realistic, generally positive expectations that allow you to approach the world with confidence
The ability to regulate aggressive impulses and other emotions
The ability to read emotions, especially subtle and mixed emotions
The ability to tolerate frustraton
The ability to “hold others in mind” [to think lovingly about absent friends]
Trust that others can and will hold you in mind
Self-disclosure–the willingness and ability to show vulnerability
The authors go on to list the essential elements of social competence that children need to use at school:
Joining a group
Giving positive attention to others
Social knowledge [knowing the norms, customs, and references of your subculture]
Tuning in to social cues [picking up on other people's emotions and signals]
Balancing autonomy with relationships
Again, I found myself thinking – marriage! work! family! These skills aren’t just for children, and just for school.
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