THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Happy new year: Stuck? Fix your social skills

My son's I.Q. is in the top .05 percent of all preschoolers, but he attended preschool in a special education classroom. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism typified by a distinctly high I.Q. and a notable lack of emotional intelligence. Asperger's is thought to be genetic, and it's surging among kids in places like Silicon Valley that attract math and tech geniuses who often have sub-par social skills.

We know one boy with Asperger's who taught himself to read books when he was two years old. Scientists surmise that learning to read books so fast consumes the part of his brain that should be learning to read social cues.

My son's special education classroom was full of kids like that one– who used to pass through the education system labeled eccentric geniuses, only to graduate having never learned social skills and consequently to falter in adulthood.

Parents should take a child's lack of social skills seriously. Teachers sure do.

For educators, any nonverbal learning disability (like not being able to tell if someone cares about what you're talking about) is treated as significantly as a verbal learning disability (like not being able to speak). Yet I'm stunned by how many parents brush aside recommendations to get help for their children by saying to themselves, "My child is so smart."

Smart is not an endgame.

To understand why, look to the workplace. Aside from the school you attended, social skills are the most important factor in whether you succeed or fail. Here's some evidence: Nine out of ten business schools consider communication and interpersonal skills "highly underrated as a differentiating factor for students," according to CareerJournal. 

And Jeff Puzas at PRTM echos a cacophony of workplace voices when he says, "Most of what I do every day as a management consultant has to do with interpersonal skills, not my I.Q."

And when you think about someone finding his way to success in the real world, consider the Wall Street Journal's list of traits that recruiters look for in business school candidates:

• Communication and interpersonal skills

• Original and visionary thinking

• Leadership potential

• Ability to work well on a team

• Analytical and problem-solving skills

Notice that most of these skills are independent of intelligence. Smart is even less an endgame for adults than children– and the standard for ability to work well with others is only getting higher, not lower: Generation Y is more team-oriented than previous generations.

So, it's time for managers and employees to stop making excuses for poor social skills and start taking the problem as seriously as educators do.

As an adult, one of the hardest parts of having low emotional intelligence is that you don't realize it. People missing the cues have no idea they're missing them. So the most unable often have the least understanding of where they fall in the spectrum.

I'm going to tell you something harsh: If your career is stuck, it's probably because of poor social skills. People who don't know what they want to do with themselves but have good social skills don't feel stuck; they feel unsure. People who are lacking social skills feel like they have nowhere to go.

Lost people feel possibilities. Stuck people do not feel possibilities. Ask yourself which you are. And if you feel suck, stop looking outside yourself to solve the problem. You need to change how you interact with people. Even if you're a toddler.



I do agree that some parents need to take lack of social skills a lot more seriously, it should not just be about what grades children achieve. I also feel social skills should be incorporated into school system from a very early age, schools do so much more now, but unfortunately children far to often have to learn the hard way, often being bullied and outcast...

I do not agree "People missing the cues have no idea" some may not, but a lot of us learn to adapt and change to fit in as we get older, thats why its harder to diagnose adults.

I still often feel like have to act the part "in the NTs world" but be the real me (Aspie) in mine. I think this quote sums it up: One's real life is often the life that one does not lead. - Oscar Wilde"

Aspergers Parallel Planet -

Penelope's son is very fortunate that teachers today take an absence of social skills very seriously. Two decades ago, AS was completely unknown in the U.S.

As an undiagnosed Aspie throughout my educational career, I had a very difficult time navigating social cues. I was constantly bullied by my classmates.

Some classmates would invite me to talk about a special interest but they didn't really seem to be interested. Maybe I didn't know how to read them or maybe they were secretly laughing at me. I formed suspicions and, to this day, I don't know if my suspicions were right or wrong.

But the burden of forming social skills should not all be one-sided. Neurotypicals don't always say what they want in a direct, understandable way.

Case in point: I was out walking on my lunch hour one day in the city where I work (which is not the same community as the one where I happen to live). A woman in a car, seeing me on foot, pulled over and asked if I lived in the town.

I truthfully told her "No" and she became absolutely ballistic with me. She apparently decided I was messing with her.

Turned out what she wanted to know was if I knew the location of a particular landmark. Things would have been so much easier if she'd just asked that question in the beginning instead of asking a question that didn't address what she wanted to know.