Social health refers to an individual’s ability to form and maintain positive relationships with others and to interact in harmonious social environments. It encompasses effective communication, empathy, and the capability to adapt to various social situations (Farrell & Geist-Martin, 2005; Suls & Wallston, 2008).
A person with good social health has the capacity to adapt comfortably to different social situations and act appropriately in a variety of cultural and social settings (like knowing to be quiet in a library or to speak up at a business meeting).
A healthy social life doesn’t mean you have to have a vast network of friends. Quality supersedes quantity. Nurturing a few deep, meaningful relationships might be more beneficial for many of us (Weare, 2013).
To improve social health, we might focus on improving our active listening skills, empathy, and effective verbal communication.
Social Health Examples
Below are some examples of ways you can maintain and develop your social health, categorized into 10 different social categories.
- Maintaining long-term friendships: This refers to your capacity to nurture friendships over a prolonged time, often by staying in regular contact and demonstrating mutual concern. An example is regularly checking in with an old roommate, despite moving to different cities.
- Communicating effectively with partners: This involves expressing thoughts, feelings, and needs openly with romantic or business partners. It’s the ability to talk through disagreements and work toward resolutions. A couple’s ability to discuss their common goals and concerns reflects this skill.
- Sharing personal thoughts and feelings: This includes being open about your emotions and ideas. It’s an essential aspect of forming deep, meaningful friendships and romantic relationships. Telling a friend about your enthusiasm for a new hobby exemplifies this skill.
- Respecting boundaries in relationships: This involves understanding and honoring the set limits within a relationship, be they emotional, physical, or personal. It’s about respect for others’ personal space and time. For instance, not burdening a friend with your issues during their tough times is one such example.
- Showing empathy to others: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. If a colleague is dealing with a personal loss, expressing genuine concern and offering a listening ear denotes empathy.
- Attending family gatherings: Regular participation at family events strengthens familial bonds. Your presence at a cousin’s graduation party illustrates this skill.
- Engaging in family counseling when needed: This involves recognizing troubles within the family and seeking assistance to address them effectively. Opting for family therapy after a death in the family shows this skill.
- Discussing important life events with family: It includes involving your family in significant decisions or changes in your life. An example is discussing your decision to pursue higher education abroad with your parents.
- Resolving family conflicts in a healthy manner: This skill signifies the ability to address disagreements or disputes within the family without aggression. Resolving an argument with a sibling through discussion and compromise suits this example.
- Supporting family members during tough times: Lending emotional, physical, or financial support to family members when they’re facing difficulties. Comforting your sibling when they’re going through a relationship breakup illustrates this.
- Participating in group discussions without dominating: This includes contributing to group conversations but also allowing space for others to express their opinions. An example could be actively listening and encouraging a quieter team member to share their ideas during a group brainstorming session.
- Respecting differing viewpoints in a group: This involves accepting varying perspectives, even if they contrast with your beliefs. In a political discussion at a community meeting, acknowledging the merit in someone else’s argument, despite your differences, showcases this skill.
- Collaborating with team members on projects: Effective collaboration involves working jointly with others toward a common goal. This might look like coordinating with colleagues to meet a project deadline at work.
- Recognizing and respecting the cultural norms of a group: This requires understanding the traditions and accepted behaviors of a specific group and respecting those norms. Attending a friend’s traditional ceremonial event and participating appropriately is a good example.
- Participating actively in community service: Engaging in activities that benefit the community around you. Organizing a neighborhood recycling drive showcases this skill.
- Voting in local and national elections: Engaging with the democratic process by casting your vote in elections exemplifies this skill.
- Participating in town hall meetings: Taking part in local meetings where community issues are discussed and decisions made. For example, voicing your concerns about a neighborhood issue at a town hall meeting shows this skill.
- Volunteering for community events: Assisting or dedicating your time to local events. An example would be offering your help at a charity run organized by your community.
- Engaging in peaceful protests for just causes: Actively supporting a cause you believe in through non-violent means. Marching in a peaceful protest for climate change awareness illustrates this attribute.
- Supporting local businesses: Regularly shopping at locally owned businesses to support your community’s economy. An example might be buying produce at a local farmers’ market.
- Building good rapport with colleagues: Establishing friendly, harmonious relationships with coworkers. Casual chats with coworkers during lunch breaks or simply greeting them every morning can contribute to this effort.
- Resolving workplace disputes amicably: Handling conflicts at work in a respectful, constructive manner. For instance, mediating a dispute between two team members and finding a solution that satisfies everyone demonstrates this skill.
- Asking for and providing constructive feedback: Openly sharing and receiving constructive criticism to improve professionally. Regularly checking in with your manager for feedback on your work performance is a good example.
- Participating in team-building activities: Actively engaging in events designed to foster closer relationships among team members. For instance, participating enthusiastically in an office team-building retreat portrays this skill.
- Recognizing and respecting professional boundaries: Understanding the limits of professional relationships and respecting them. For example, not asking overly personal questions of a coworker represents good practice of this skill.
- Engaging in group study sessions: Participating in collaborative learning groups. As an example, organizing and leading a study group for a complex subject in college reflects this ability.
- Respecting teachers and fellow students: Conveying a respectful attitude towards educators and peers. Demonstrating this might look like actively listening when your teacher is speaking or not interrupting your classmates during their presentations.
- Participating actively in classroom discussions: Actively engaging in academic conversations, expressing your thoughts and ideas. A prime example could be regularly sharing your interpretations in a literature class discussion.
- Sharing resources with classmates: Willingly offering educational materials, such as notes or textbooks, to fellow students. If you always offer your summarized notes to a classmate who was sick, this is proof of the skill.
- Collaborating on group projects: Working cooperatively with classmates on shared assignments or tasks. Organizing duties among group members for a science project signifies this skill.
Digital and Online Interactions
- Practicing netiquette in online forums: This refers to behaving respectfully and considerately in online interactions. Keeping discussions civil in the comment section of an online forum exemplifies this.
- Avoiding hostile online behaviors: Refraining from engaging in or supporting hostile behavior in online spaces. Standing up for a victim of online bullies and reporting the bully represents good practice of this skill.
- Respecting privacy of others online: This can mean not sharing another’s personal information without consent. For example, asking a friend’s permission before posting their picture on your social media.
- Building healthy online communities: Actively participating in or facilitating a supportive, respectful online group. Maintaining a positive and supportive tone in an online support group demonstrates this.
- Using technology to stay connected: Harnessing the power of digital tools to maintain relationships. Regularly video-calling a friend who lives abroad is one such example.
- Attending cultural events or festivals: Participating in community cultural celebrations. Your attendance at a local cultural festival embodies this skill.
- Respecting customs and traditions: Recognizing and showing respect for the practices and beliefs of different cultures. This skill might be illustrated by removing your shoes when entering a Japanese household, adhering to their custom.
- Traveling to understand different cultures: Taking trips to learn more about diverse cultures. Suppose you visit India to experience its deep-rooted customs and traditions firsthand, this reflects the skill.
- Engaging in cross-cultural dialogues: Participating in discussions about different cultures. Posing questions and expressing interest during a cultural exchange session is a practical example of this.
- Cultural sensitivity: Being aware of and appreciating differences between cultures. If you modify your communication style when interacting with individuals from different cultural backgrounds to avoid accidentally causing offense, you’re showcasing cultural sensitivity.
Social Support Systems
- Seeking therapy or counseling when needed: Recognizing when professional help is required to manage personal or emotional problems. Booking appointments with a therapist after going through a traumatic loss shows this skill.
- Joining support groups for shared challenges: This skill might look like joining a local grief support group after losing a loved one.
- Building a trusted circle of confidants: Forming a supportive network of trustworthy individuals. Having a few close friends with whom you share your deepest fears and biggest dreams represents this skill.
- Offering help to someone in distress: Providing emotional or practical support to someone in a difficult situation. Being there for a friend navigating a career crisis shows evidence of this.
- Connecting with mentors for guidance: Establishing relationships with individuals who can provide professional or personal guidance. Seeking advice from a mentor at work to advance in your career demonstrates this.
Social Activities and Hobbies
- Joining a book club: Participating in social groups based on shared interests. A practical example could be actively contributing to book discussions in the community book club.
- Engaging in group sports or fitness activities: Taking part in physical activities with others. If you regularly join the community soccer games, this represents the skill.
- Participating in group hobby classes: Engaging in shared interest classes with others. Signing up for a group painting class embodies this skill.
- Organizing or attending social gatherings or parties: Actively organizing or attending social events. Hosting a holiday party for friends or attending a neighborhood potluck stands as a good example.
- Playing team-based games or activities: Actively participating in activities that require teamwork. Being part of a local trivia team showcases this skill.
Your social well-being significantly affects both your mental and physical health (Bryant & Mikkonen, 2020). Therefore, it’s a good idea to prioritize nurturing social relationships and strengthening your social skills, just as you would focus on maintaining a balanced diet or a regular exercise regimen.
Bryant, T., & Mikkonen, J. (2020). Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Canadian Museum Of Civilization.
Farrell, A., & Geist-Martin, P. (2005). Communicating social health: Perceptions of wellness at work. Management Communication Quarterly, 18(4), 543-592.
Maller, C. J. (2009). Promoting children’s mental, emotional and social health through contact with nature: a model. Health education, 109(6), 522-543.
Suls, J., & Wallston, K. A. (Eds.). (2008). Social Psychological Foundations of Health and Illness. Wiley.
Weare, K. (2013). Promoting Mental, Emotional and Social Health: A Whole School Approach. Taylor & Francis.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]