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

July 1, 2022

Plascilla Foster, LPC, NCC Illinois

After identifying topics that interest you, it is time to practice. After practicing with suggestions identified in Part I of this article (own your own, with family), it can be helpful to make a conversation starter plan. According to Gingerich et al. (2018), there are ways to practice conversation starters at home and ways to track your goals. To make a plan you can begin by identifying someone to practice with that you interact with regularly throughout the week. You then can divide your plan with the 4 W’s what, when, where, and with who (p.211). Identify what you would actually do, such as thinking about what type of conversations you would like to have based on common topics. 

Then, you plan on when you would actually have the conversation. This can include the specific day of the week and the time. You would then identify where the conversation would take place (i.e., gym, home, or the park). Afterwards, identify who you want to practice with (parents, siblings, extended family members). A part of planning to build positive social supports is tracking your goal. Tracking your goal of completing what you set out to do, or skills you set out to practice can help keep you accountable for accomplishing what you want.

Using conversations to build social support does not only involve starting the actual conversation, but it also involves keeping the conversation going. It also involves having a pleasurable conversation, as it can be difficult to build a social support with someone conversating about topics that trigger anger, feelings of sadness, or potentially can make someone feel uncomfortable. It is important to listen when having conversation as well as appropriating the amount of personal information. 

It can be tough sharing our opinion or sharing information about ourselves due to fear of rejection or fear that we may share too much, too soon. However, if you do not share enough about yourself, it may prohibit you from actually growing into a close relationship. When you first meet someone, you can start with sharing small doses of information about yourself. This includes things like movies, television shows, deserts you like, or novels you have read. Less personal information are things you may share with strangers you meet for the first time or with someone you meet on a professional level. The more time you spend with someone, the more information you can share. This moves the conversation from a surface level, to a little more personable. For example, sharing information about your career or hobbies, and then eventually becoming closer in your social supports, then sharing your goals in life or challenges that you have faced or are facing.

So in summary, after identifying topics that you would like to discuss, and deciding to practice, it is important to keep track of your goals. Keeping track of the progress you are making can help you understand skills you can continue to work on. When having conversations with others it is a key point to listen as well as share things about yourself. Depending on how well you know them you can gauge how much personal information to share, but also remember that opening up and sharing is a part of developing, and maintaining good positive social supports (Gingerich et al., 2018). If this is an area in your life that you would like to explore more, it can be greatly beneficial to meet with a counselor. Symmetry Counseling is proud to offer online counseling services, ensuring that you can connect with a counselor and deeply explore the idea of building social supports in your own life. Schedule a visit with a therapist today.



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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