Updated: Jun 16
It may seem odd to group members attending Thinking for a Change that we start by teaching a set of social skills that they may feel they know already. The Thinking for a Change course emphasizes teaching social skills; Lessons 2-5 and 11-15 teach these social skills. The list of social skills includes many that all of us have needed to use in our daily lives many times:
Making A Complaint
And then there are social skills that may seem less obvious, soft skills that we feel we can do instinctively without thinking about them:
• Active Listening
• Giving Feedback
• Knowing Your Feelings
• Understanding the Feelings of Others
• Responding to Anger
So what is the point?
Thinking for a Change teaches these skills to provide the building blocks on which the program is built. It includes social skill instruction to prepare the group members to use, in a pro-social way, the skills from a perspective of self-understanding and the consideration of their actions on others. That is to say, acting in a way that we believe that other people's feelings and experiences are important.
The integrated nature of the program is that the three components of Thinking for a Change; cognitive self-change, social skills, and problem-solving skills, all interact and build upon each other. We ‘fill the pockets’ of group members with skills so that they have a range of skills that they can choose to use, if and when needed. This is demonstrated by the programs Program Organizer:
Thinking for a Change Program Organizer
We cannot successfully apply our newly learned problem-solving skills without the integrated nature of the program. Any attempt to break the conflict cycle has a necessary imperative to use social skills that allow us to achieve a realistic and positive goal. This may require the use of practical social skills such as Asking Questions or Apologizing, mixed with the softer more introspective skills of Knowing Your Feelings or Understanding the Feelings of Others.
Indeed the integrated nature of the program is such that many of the social skills utilize other social skills. For instance, how can we hope to Understand the Feelings of Others if we haven’t Actively Listened to what we are being told and then asked questions to enhance our understanding? How can we stop acting on our emotions and respond to another person’s anger with anger of our own, or turn an in-your-face problem into a time to think problem without knowing our own feelings, or by recognizing our own risky thoughts and feelings?
The truth is we can’t.
At the start of the course, I often see group members who I can see wonder why am I being taught something I already know. Well, I explain the integrated nature of the program and as the course progresses continually demonstrate how the skills we learned are used over and over again.
The integrated nature provides group members with a defined, structured step-by-step process for dealing with challenging and stressful real-life situations; practical skills that can be used to deescalate a situation and cognitive skills that allow for better Thinking and thus better Behaviors.
This is after all a cognitive self-change-based program and the integrated nature of the program fully supports this.