Social Thinking Articles


Social Thinking & the Transition to Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood 260

Updated: December, 2023
© 2023 Think Social Publishing, Inc.

Part of the work we do is encouraging honest discussions during the middle and high school years to help teams create meaningful and realistic transition plans that consider the goals and desires of the student and also consider their strengths. We also encourage students graduating from high school to honestly consider the strengths and the struggles they’ve had over the past few years as a guidepost for figuring out the next phase of their life.

We have always made a commitment to developing teaching materials for older students, young adults, and those in adulthood. But we don’t approach this movement from high school to college or career with through rose-colored glasses. Our goal is to help teenagers evolve into young adults with their mental health intact along with a desire to continue their learning.

How much do adults realistically learn?

We continue to learn throughout our lifetime and our social learning is no exception. We find that adult clients can be strong social learners. They have more social awareness and socially based experiences, and they apply social concepts in real world settings. It’s interesting to note that adults are taught skills (and encouraged to keep learning) to help them do better or advance in their vocation or career. However, the general public doesn’t take this same approach to social skills. If a person needs help with their social skills they are usually sent to a “counselor” or told they need to figure out “how to behave.”

While counselors, social workers, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can help people sort out their feelings and frustrations and guide them toward different types of support that may be available, few professionals have received deep training in the social learning process. The professional may not connect the dots that a client’s anxiety stems from lifelong challenges with initiating communication or figuring out how to maintain a conversation of interest to other people. Through our own clinical experiences, we have found that our adult clients continue to engage in a powerful social learning process throughout their lives. In fact, we all do! Have you noticed that you’re probably able to cope with difficult situations better today than you were able to 10 years ago?

How are components of the Social Thinking Methodology relevant for HR Departments?

It’s a well-stated and often quoted fact that we “hire people for their skills and we fire people for their behaviors.” As a general rule people are much more comfortable helping another person learn technical skills (e.g., how to do a specific job or task) than they are offering some guidance when a co-worker seems to struggle with social skills. When employees find it difficult to create and/or maintain healthy relationships within the workplace or with clients, they are often admonished, written up, or told to “figure it out” or “go see a counselor.” Most of us don’t feel comfortable having a conversation about our social selves when something goes awry. CEOs and managers shy away from the task because it’s just not something most people feel equipped to handle.

What some HR departments may not realize is that social cognitive and/or social emotional competencies are the core of many workplace issues. Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke have a passion for working with adults and helping them meet their professional and personal goals. Together, they wrote a book for all adults with more subtle social learning differences, difficulties, or disabilities called: Social Thinking at Work: Strategies for Understanding and Navigating the Workplace. The very real and very honest content in the book guides adults to better understand core social concepts as well as consider their own and others’ thoughts and feelings in the workplace. It also impresses upon readers the various emotional undercurrents and related social skills expectations, the “unwritten rules”, that exist in every workplace and affect how people work and relate individually and as part of a team. HR staff find the book equally useful; it is filled with practical strategies and interesting frameworks that facilitate conversation about social behavior in specific social situations. Our clients frequently tell us they wish co-workers and managers would be more explicit about their social expectations. Social Thinking at Work helps to addresses that concern.

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