“Social Thinking at Work: Why Should I Care,” by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke is a game changer. This book provides practical advice to every adult whether you are on the Autism Spectrum, Neurotypical (NT), or somewhere in between on how to navigate the social intricacies involved with the workplace. I have long held the opinion that the ability to socialize and get along with people is as important to creating a successful career as being good at your job. Thus, success very often requires a combination of academic intelligence and social intelligence. Social Thinking at Work creates a roadmap for those individuals with weaknesses in social intelligence to “better understand the expectations of the social mind.” According to Michelle and Pamela, “Our goal is to make information explicit by breaking down and defining how the social mind works, and how it’s linked to social-emotional and behavioral expectations.”
Social Thinking at Work starts out with a detailed explanation of what is social thinking and explains the concept that:
Our strongest memories of people come from how they tipped our emotional scale, whether positively or negatively
These memories of how someone made us feel stay with us much longer than what was actually said. Thus, while we might not remember what was said, or what was done, we surely remember whether that person made us feel good or bad and we use that social memory in all future interactions with that person. The book explains that to change this perception, “is no easy task” and requires the individual to, “walk the walk – not just for a day, but consistently, every day.”
So how do you teach social thinking to someone that doesn’t have these skills innately? Well, this is why this book is a game changer. Michelle and Pamela have spent a career chronicling, interacting and working with individuals with differing forms of social intelligence. This book is a culmination of that work and uses a combination of real life examples, reinforcing concepts over and over again and analytics to teach these skills. While there have been many philosophies for teaching social thinking and social skills to children this is the first one I am aware of that makes the jump to the adult world and how that correlates to holding a job and being successful in a career.
You might be worried that I described their writing method above as reinforcing concepts over and over again but for individuals with any type of weakness it is very helpful to pre-teach, teach and re-teach new concepts in order to make them stick. This is not done in a repetitive way but rather is done in a way not to patronize the reader. I found their writing style to be refreshing as they fully understand the idea that, “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. While many of you understand the idiom, “there is more than one way to skin a cat,” means that there are several possible ways of achieving something many adults with very analytical minds and social weaknesses might not. Very similarly, Michelle and Pamela understand that explaining “Social Thinking at Work,” will require multiple methods to teach these concepts to various people.
I also discussed their method of teaching as being analytical in nature. They have created various graphs, scales and maps for the analytical mind to use to navigate the choppy waters of social intelligence. Some of the analytics they have created include:
- An Emotional Scale;
- Problem Solving Thermometer;
- Expected vs. Unexpected Behavior chart;
- The Four Steps of Communication;
- Social-Emotional Behavioral Path Options; and
- Social Behavior Maps for Adults.
To give you a taste of what one of these analytics entails Michelle and Pamela say, “Simply put, the Social Behavior Map (SBMA) looks at how our behavior affects people, how these people interpret the behavior, how they respond to their feelings about the behavior and how their responses affect us.” They give you step by step instructions on how to build an SBMA including a template and samples.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that has ever experienced social challenges at work but especially for those adults on the autism spectrum or with known social weaknesses. Social Thinking at Work can be purchased on the Social Thinking website or Amazon and retails for $22.