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Question from a Husband with ASD: "What social skills should I be focusing on, and why?”

“Mark, you say social skills can be taught to people with ASD. As a person on the spectrum, what social skills should I be focusing on, and why?”

It’s true that social skills can be taught. It’s never too soon to start learning how to get along with others - and it’s never too late to sharpen your skills. Start with the most basic ones first, and keep sharpening these skills over time. 

The main ones would be as follows:

  1. Active listening
  2. Asking for help
  3. Beginning a conversation
  4. Conflict management (e.g., the ability to resolve arguments and disagreements effectively) 
  5. Cooperation (e.g., sticking to rules and going about activities without disturbing others)
  6. Empathy (e.g., resonating with the feelings of others and trying to make others feel better)
  7. Engagement (e.g., making friends and actively including others in activities)
  8. Giving Constructive Criticism in a Positive manner
  9. Intimacy (e.g., developing emotional closeness with others)
  10. Inviting people to things
  11. Paying attention to tone of voice and speed of talking during conversations
  12. Responding positively to negative feedback rather than viewing it as criticism
  13. Responsibility (e.g., good behavior in the absence of supervision)
  14. Saying ‘no’ (e.g., setting limits with your time and energy without being rude)
  15. Self-control (e.g., regulating emotions in difficult or upsetting social situations)
  16. Small Talk to Build Connection
  17. Social confidence (e.g., asserting yourself in social situations)
  18. Using eye contact 

Here are some ways we benefit from having the social skills listed above:
1. Close relationships-- The most important benefit of being socially skilled over time is the development of meaningful relationships, which drives many other positive outcomes.

2. Decrease loneliness-- People who are more likely to take social risks (e.g., introducing themselves to a stranger or initiating conversation with people) report lower levels of loneliness.

3. Job performance-- Social skills positively predict job performance in workplaces where individuals experience low levels of support from their organization. Social skills are believed to be especially useful for people who need to seek cooperation and resources to perform well.

4. Mental well-being-- Socially withdrawn behavior and social skills problems have been linked to symptoms of depression.

5. Physical health-- Having solid social skills increases your chances of having more high-quality relationships, which benefits your physical health in many ways (e.g., reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer).

6. Reduce victimization-- People with social skill deficits are more likely to experience peer victimization (e.g., in the workplace). Conversely, people who are more cooperative and prosocial are more likely to step in and help others who are being mistreated.

Every social situation is different, and there is not just one “right” way to handle any of them. But, when viewed through the lens of these core competencies, most social situations become a lot more adaptable – and enjoyable.

Great question,

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

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