As a gifted person, sometimes it can be challenging to socially relate to the typical people around you. Gifted individuals often have unique interests, perspectives, and communication styles that can make social interactions akward or unfulfilling. This doesn't mean gifted people are naturally, socially akward or lack social skills. In fact, many gifted people are actually quite socially savvy. However, even though they may seem socially adept, they may be left feeling lonely and misunderstood when they cannot relate to others or believe others cannot relate to them. Meaningful social connection is a critical for our mental health, and success in many areas of life, including school, work, and personal relationships. It's also essential for giving us a sense of belonging, a fundamental craving our brains have.
Here are some strategies for gifted children, teens, and adults to optomize their strengths in comfortably relating to their more typical peers, and finding belonging in many different places.
Tune Into Your Empathy
One of the most important skills for human connection is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. If you, as a gifted person,are finding it difficult to relate to others, tap into this strength. You can do this by actively listening to different people, asking questions, and trying to understand their perspectives. Think of this as an opportunity to explore and discover. This is also a great way to capitalize on your natural curiosity. In learning more about others, you might discover something interesting and relatable about them.
Focus on Common Interests
Gifted people are known for having unique interests that may not be shared by the average person. However, there are likely some common interests that you can focus on to build connections. For example, you may be able to find common ground in a shared love of music, sports, or movies. Look for opportunities to talk about these shared interests and build connections with those around you. Remember, no one person can meet all of our needs. It's okay to have some friends who share our unique interests and some who share our more common ones. This just means we have a broader group of people to share our life experiences with.
Find Value in Those Who are Different
Recognizing the strengths of ourselves and others can be helpful in building meaningful relationships. While people can vary greatly, we all bring something to the table, so to speak. Looking for common ground and the value that each person brings to the relationship, enviornment or task can increase our tolerance and understanding of others, and can increase our internal desire to connect with those who are different.
Practice Active Listening
As previously mentioned, active listening is a critical skill for good communication and relationship building. When you actively listen to someone, you are fully present in the conversation and focused on what the other person is saying. This can help you better understand their perspective and build connections. Some ways people practice active listening is by using body language like nodding your head, and then asking questions to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Try to be curious about the other person, even if you think the subject matter is uninteresting. If the subject matter bores you, you can always ask more personal questions like, "How did you become interested in ...," or "What excites you about ..." You may be surprised by what you discover. Even though many gifted people dread small talk like this, it's important as it gives you the opportunity to find out more about the person and if there is a possability of having a meaningful or casual connection with them.
Seek Out Like-Minded Peers
While it's important to learn how to socially relate to those who are different from you, it's also important to seek out like-minded peers who share your interests and perspectives. This can be a great way to build connections and develop a deeper sense of belonging. Look for clubs, organizations, activities or online communities that cater to your interests and seek out opportunities to connect with these people. If you are of a more outgoing nature, you can even create your own group or club to attract others who have similar interests. This is the same for your children. If a group doesn't exist for their interest, you can always make your own and invite others to join. It's easier than you might think.
It's okay to be different. We all have strengths, and different individual qualities that make us who we are, and that make us loveable. There's nothing that says we all have to be the same. Owning our quirks, and what makes us unique can actually add to our personal charm. Being comfortable with yourself can help us to feel more confident, and can also put others at ease in our presence.
Social connection is a basic human need, but can be tricky if you think and feel differently than the majority of people. Even if you are comfortable reading a book by yourself, or only desire a few close friends, building casual and close relationships can be an important part of succeeding at work or school, and can improve your sense of well being and belonging in the world. Putting yourself out there little by little can be rewarding, and can get easier over time.
About the Author:
Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She nearly 15 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.