Social Survival Skills

What is Social and Emotional Resilience?

Social inclusion

  • A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity.
  • At school, work or the community it means treating everyone like a member of your tribe or village. It does not mean that you have to love everyone, just respect them, even if they are different. Then learn how to get along with them.
  • When there is a dispute or conflict, the system should utilize collaborative, restorative, equitable processes not adversarial means where possible.
  • Social exclusion is the process of being shut out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems which contribute to the integration of a person into the community (Cappo 2002).
  • Social inclusion involves respecting each person but it is dependent upon promoting social resilience and individual responsibility.

Social and emotional resilience

  • Resilience is the social and emotional ability to deal with the ups and downs of life.
  • Most people confront stress, frustration, disappointment and loss at some stage in their life. Children or adults with significant supportive relationships can survive most difficulties, including horrific trauma.
  • Resilience is dependent upon using effective social survival skills to build these supportive relationships. This means that each person needs to know how to relate and connect to other members of their social tribes, eg family, school and work.
  • These skills are mandatory in making true friends, dealing with the challenges of maintaining relationships, especially with family members and difficult members of our various tribes, eg social group, work, sporting groups, religious groups, voluntary associations.

Develop Social Resilience

The evidence is clear. Like a pride of lions, group of meerkats, birds flocking together or fish swimming in a school, people with a support network cope better with all issues - from help with school work, socialising at sport, finding a job for a mate, being with friends for fun, supporting friends through stress, loss, illness, trauma. People with friends have a better self esteem and cope better with the trials of life of any stage. They are less likely to be stressed, angry or depressed. Having a close supportive family falls into the same category.

Clearly, the art of being able to socialise with all types of people, create close connections and maintain them is the art of survival. It was necessary when we all lived in tribes and is even more vital now that we live in boxes, work in boxes and even drive in boxes. Our connections with others are severely restricted. Then why did it become a problem?


  • When ever there is an industrial revolution people move away from their villages into the cities. The same pattern is still being repeated around the world as people search for a better life.
  • After World War 1 and 2 people moved in huge numbers away from their families of origin. Many moved overseas. The extended family lost its power and stopped meeting together regularly.
  • After World War 2 the nuclear family took over. Even this has been eroded by divorce, remarriage, unusual working hours, the need for family chauffeuring, television meals, takeaway food etc.
  • The most recent blow to family life has come with the electronic 'blah blah' age. Although we gain wonderful machinery to help us at home and at work, it reduces communication to a few thumb moves, an email or chat room. Children are stuck in front of screen instead of socialising with family, neighbour or peers. At work people email rather than walk a few steps. Friends text and misconstrue.
  • Thus for many people being with their family means a toxic two hours at Christmas, Easter or thanksgiving.

The Result:

  • People who don't grow up with close family or friends may lose the ability to relate to others. They don't know how to communicate or connect. They are less likely to develop emotional and social resilience.
  • Although we know about shy children or adults or those with social difficulties, many people are losing the art of saying what they think, feel and want without alienating, stressing or abusing others.
  • The result is that at school, home or the workplace poor communication skills are handicapping people's interactions with others.

The Model:

Evelyn Field developed the model, the 'Secrets of Relating' following the loss of a child. It is a very simple model, originally designed to help shy children and adults improve their social skills.

  • It is based upon the notion that we need to relate, not threaten or attack.
  • We need to be friendly and empathic but if we are being threatened then we need to defuse conflict and protect ourselves.
  • Evelyn uses the butterfly for many different reasons, but it allows you to visualise the six main secrets to develop.
  • Many of these secrets are based upon solid psychological theory.
  • The remainder come from many years of psychological practice and studying the social behaviour of her dogs.

Evelyn's unique model - the 'Secrets of Relating'

Feelings - Your feelings influence how you behave and what you say and do. You need to identify, quantify and release your feelings so that you can become assertive, not aggressive or passive aggressive. You can also use your gut instinct to protect yourself.

Reasons - You need to understand why things happened, and perhaps why the other person treated you in the way they did. You don't have to blame yourself or anyone else, which makes you powerless, instead, just work out what you need to change to become empowered.

Self esteem - Everyone needs good self-esteem to be valued, motivated and successful. If you are affected by bullying your self-esteem will be low. You need to build your self esteem so that you have the energy to protect yourself and make a group of good friends who will protect you from difficult people and obtain help from others.

Communication skills - the communication recipe involves using your body language, voice and the right words. When you use these skills you can block bullies, obtain respect and make real friends.

'Power pack' - There are difficult and mean people around, there are even more who are just having a bad day. Despite what someone told you, even if you are nice to everyone, they won't always be nice to you. You need to protect yourself and block meanness and bullying.

Support network - like the animal world, everyone needs intimate and wider networks to give them support and protection. You need a close bunch of good friends, and you need to know who else can help you.