By the time a teen turns eighteen, what sort of things should she know in the world of #adulting? Making a great score on the SAT’s is all fine and good for getting into college, but what about real life skills? We want to give our teens roots, but also wings that they may fly to new heights in their next stage of life called adulthood.
Interpersonal skills are a gift that some naturally possess and others have to learn or constantly suffer the consequences for committing embarrassing social faux pas. As an adult, this skill will translate into pragmatics, networking, or building relational capital.
Unwritten rules of our society are not easily deciphered, but here’s some tips I’ve learned that I’m passing along to my own teen. And going to parties is a great way to learn to apply social graces.
18 Things to Share When Teaching Teens Social Graces
- When you receive an invitation, RSVP by the deadline. If you cannot attend, try to refrain from saying a plain “no,” but politely reply with the other plans you had made.
- When you go to a party, stay at least 30 minutes. It’s considered rude to show up for snacks and then leave before making any real conversations with other guests.
- At a larger get-together, try to talk to at least three different groups of people.
- Whether at a birthday, wedding, or graduation party, it’s important to know how to speak and act as to not offend others. There are many rules when it comes to learning social graces. If you do end up saying the wrong thing, it’s best to simply apologize. Most people are sympathetic and forgiving.
- A simple rule for introductions is to remember The “Six S’s”:
2. See their eyes (make eye contact).
3. Say, “Hi.”
4. Shake hands.
5. Say, “My name is . What’s your name?”
6. Say, “Nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs. .”
- Try not to look insecure, even you feel like the simple country mouse visiting the extravagant city mouse. Give affirming smiles to others and add to conversations.
- As a last resort, if it’s difficult to join in other ongoing conversations, try standing in a line of people, like the bathroom line or the buffet line. Strike up a conversation with others who are also waiting and maybe you’ll make a friend.
- If there are no more chairs available, give up your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman, or those with disabilities.
- Do not, I repeat, do not talk about another person’s body or your own. Even if you’re hot, cold, or recovering from some sort of illness. It’s just not the stuff good conversations are made of and will lead to even more awkwardness.
- It’s better to comment on what a person is, rather than what they do. For instance, “Sally is such a creative person.” sounds more affirming than “Sally likes to draw.”
- Figure out your talking points. Try brainstorming about things you are good at talking about before a party.
- Inquiring minds want to know, but please don’t share others’ personal information that you know they wouldn’t want others to know about.
- Also, don’t gossip. Just avoid saying negative things about others, even if you add, “and we should pray for this person.”
- In my writer’s group, Word Weavers Int’l., I learned the “sandwich method” of critique. When saying something that could be upsetting to someone, but it still needs to be said, first say something positive, then the hard truth, and follow up with something encouraging. For example when in a conversation with someone who is gossiping try, “You seem like a caring person, but maybe we shouldn’t talk about Kayla’s boyfriend troubles. Hey, she’s sitting on a chair in the corner by herself. Let’s invite her to sit with us.”
- Nobody likes to listen to a one-sided conversation. Keep the flow going by asking others about what is going on in their lives.
- Learn the art of wrapping up a conversation. Steer what you are talking about to lighter subjects, like “Wow, this was a fun party.” Then end with something positive like, “It was so nice to meet you, Mrs./Mrs. . I really enjoyed our conversation.”
- When you need to leave, simply tell the host/hostess, “I do wish I could stay, but I really have to go.” No need to explain why.
- Write a thank you card to your host/hostess. A simple message of thanks for a great party let’s them know that their hard work of hospitality paid off.
Whatever the occasion, applying common rules of interpersonal communication can lay the groundwork on which relationships are built. Doors may open in the way of making a new friends, growing in empathy, or a building connections for a future career. So let’s start those conversations with our teens about what it means to have social graces.
* Credit: Portrait of Princess Albert de Broglie, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1853
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