Why Gifted People Have Social Emotional Challenges — 8 Strategies To Overcome Them

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gifted man and woman painting

It's common for people with high achievement capability to experience social-emotional challenges. 

In fact, highly gifted and talented adults and kids may often struggle with perceptions of being different and feeling isolated, which translates into difficulties connecting with peers. 

Socialization comes easily to some children and adults. They know how to connect with their peers, make conversation, join a group, and read the room.

Meanwhile, despite being gifted in some areas, others struggle to connect and make friends. Lagging social skills and the inability to read social cues are often the culprits. 

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But, the good news is that social-emotional skills can be learned. 

As a gifted adult, you may be frustrated by how awkward you feel at times. As parents of a gifted child, you may be worried about your child’s happiness and future.

Rest assured, however, that the more work and practice put into paying attention to social cues, you or your child can better employ your unique brain wiring to connect and thrive amongst everyone else.

Here are 8 strategies to improve social skills when you have social-emotional challenges as someone who's gifted. 

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

The better you understand who you are, where you excel, and where you falter, the better able you are to prepare for the future.

This self-understanding goes a long way toward building self-acceptance. 

2. Encourage yourself.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way toward building confidence and a willingness to collaborate and excel.

Keep the encouragement realistic by setting achievable goals, work within your limitations, and celebrate your genuine accomplishments.

3. Self-regulate your stress.

Coping strategies that ease frustration are critical to overcoming the desire to quit when tasks or situations become too challenging.

The ability to manage rejection, worry, and anxiety helps you manage your emotions, rather than the emotions managing you. 

4. Get counseling, if needed.

Counseling, particularly in a group setting, may be beneficial, especially if you can speak with others who are experiencing similar difficulties and frustrations.

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5. Consider your whole person.

Remind yourself that gifted people are not just a label. They have individual needs.

Encourage your efforts through positive reinforcement as you practice your social skills. Herald and celebrate each small win and each social observation and talk about the unspoken rules of the social world and social dilemmas in daily life. 

6. Support your social and emotional needs.

Establish and maintain your social relationships by encouraging positive social interactions with your peers.

Increase your opportunities to act in leadership roles, especially in areas where you excel.

7. Emphasize your potential.

Make sure that you're aware of your potential and don’t sell yourself short. Work on planning your career goals as well as their social skills potential.

Practice communication techniques, such as interviewing tactics and how to make chit-chat and eye contact. Doing these can help you achieve your goals. 

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8. Get a mentor.

Find a peer who's also gifted and may have already walked this road. This relationship can lend heartfelt advice, encouragement, and a chance to compare and commiserate, especially in times of frustration. 

Many gifted folks struggle with understanding and demonstrating the social skills needed to maintain positive peer relationships.

To address this struggle, you must first acknowledge and understand your individual gifts and needs.

This understanding helps better prepare you for the future.

When addressing social-emotional challenges, you must also highlight strengths and interests. This has the effect of increasing passion, self-esteem, cooperation, and collaboration. 

The whole child must be evaluated rather than specific weaknesses. This approach involves not only academics but also social and emotional needs.

By providing support that targets the whole person, you have the opportunity to tap your full as a gifted person. 

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Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach and the author of "Why Will No One Play with Me?" who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them. For more information, visit her website.