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How Do I Build Positive Social Supports? (Part I)

July 1, 2022

Plascilla Foster, LPC, NCC Illinois

Let us say you examined your current relationships (friends, romantic, family, and work relationships) and you decided to make some changes. You decided that you want to build positive social supports and eliminate relationships that are toxic and do not add substance in your life. According to Gingerich et al. (2018), these are some questions that you can begin to ask yourself, “How do I connect with people who support my decision to live a healthy lifestyle (mentally, physically, emotionally)?”, “What are different ways to connect with others?”, or “How do I get more friends or associates?”

Building positive social supports can start with conversations. Developing skills to initiate conversations can assist you with building social support. Starting conversations is not always easy, especially if you are a shy person. It can also feel awkward starting conversations with strangers or those who you may not know well. You can stay motivated and encouraged to know that by starting conversations you can build social relationships that enhance your quality of life. Even if you may not be quite ready to connect with new people for social support, you may consider reconnecting with positive individuals that you have not spoken with for a while.

Where to Start

You may say, “Okay where do I start?”.Start with talking with people that you naturally interact with frequently. Talking with people you naturally interact with on a regular basis allows you to develop conversation skills. Some of these places include your home, church, place of employment, school, neighborhood, the gym, library, and overall places you visit often. If you live with your family, starting conversations with family members can provide practice for starting conversations outside of your home, or comfort zone to build positive social support. Practice does not make perfect, but it can make progress. Practice can improve your confidence in your effort to develop positive social relationships.

When it comes to starting conversations, sometimes individuals struggle with exactly what to conversate about. This can trigger feelings of anxiety, and following experiencing anxiety decide not to move forward with it because it is scary. Topics that may be used as friendly conversation starters can be things centered around television shows. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, television shows and new movies coming to the scene were hot topics, but especially following the pandemic good conversations starters with others have been about Netflix series, good shows to binge watch, or recommend. When you find a show that someone else really enjoys also, it is a good start to connecting with that person for social support because you have already identified a common interest and can grow from there.

Next, topics about music, food, pets, and different sports are also ways to start conversations. You can simply start with a smile and say good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. This can create an inviting presence where others can feel welcomed around you. Identifying topics that you enjoy or are enthusiastic about can also help you build confidence and decrease anxiety because you do not have to worry about what to talk about in the subject matter.

Lastly, it is time to practice. You can practice on your own to start with. This can be done with looking in the mirror or writing. Then you can also practice with family that you are close to and receive feedback from them. You can ask what you did well and on what you can improve (Gingerich et al, 2018). Also, this can be something that you can process and work on with a counselor. If you’d like to speak with a counselor, our online counseling services are the perfect way to start the process of building positive social supports. Schedule a visit with Symmetry Counseling today!

References:

Gingerich, S., Mueser, K.T., Meyer-Kalos, P.S., Fox-Smith, M., Freedland, T. (2018). Enhanced Illness 

Management and Recovery E- IMR) unpublished manuscript. Minnesota Center for Chemical

And Mental Health, School of Social Work, College of Education and Human Development,

University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

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