Selling SEL: Social Emotional Learning for Adults

Benefits of
Social Emotional Learning for Adults

This blog post about Social Emotional Learning for Adults (SEL) was written by associate therapist Julie K. Peters. You can learn more about Julie from this therapist interview. If you are interested in working with Julie, or any of our other therapists, contact us today.

Selling SEL: a blogpost by: Julie K. Peters 

“Emotional learning is not a quick or easy lesson. Many adults never master it. But practice makes better…” – Heather Shumaker. (From The Book: It’s Okay Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids.)

social emotional learning for adults quote

When we think of social emotional learning (SEL), we often think about its application for children. However, recently, I have been thinking more about social emotional learning for adults. Those of us who are fully grown might think that we have surpassed the developmental milestones we typically associate with the phrase SEL. And yet, many of us still find ourselves in situations where we could benefit from further development of these skills. 

If you do a quick google search, you will find most adult SEL resources are focused specifically on helping educators develop skills that they can model for their students in the microcosm of the classroom. But what if we applied a more “macro” lens while looking at the ways all adults might still profit from working on these skills? 

But first – what even is social emotional learning?

what even is social emotional learning?

One of my favorite definitions of SEL comes from The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website and says, “It is the process through which children, adolescents, and adults learn skills to support healthy development and relationships.” 

All definitions of social emotional learning seem to point to training in some key skill areas and support the idea that this learning can extend across our entire lifespan. 

Let’s take a look at just 3 of those skills: 

1) Generating in ourselves greater bandwidth for compassion 

2) Learning to make well-balanced, socially responsible decisions 

3) Increasing our self-awareness so that we can take responsibility for our behaviors 

Now, who among us could not use a little extra dose of familiarity with these concepts? Social emotional learning for adults makes sense, doesn’t it?

Exercises: Social Emotional Learning for Adults

Social Emotional Learning for Adults

Okay, but how do we, as folks navigating a really fast-paced world filled with so many demands of our time and energy, focus on yet ANOTHER area of self-improvement? 

Here are 3 ideas for exercises for social emotional learning for adults that will take only 5 minutes or so each: 

Positivity Flash List for Building Compassion

This is a good one to practice the next time that you find yourself really frustrated by a stranger while you wait in line or or feel enraged in traffic. Challenge yourself to create a “flash list” of 5 possible positive traits about the human subject of your frustration. (ie, Maybe they are well dressed, have a nice smile, and seem conscientious…)

Our greatest strengths can also be the cause of some of our challenges. Let’s say someone is moving slowly when you are in a hurry maybe they also possess the quality of patience for themselves and others. Can you see the flip side of another person’s challenge by viewing it in the way it is likely a strength or protective mechanism for this individual? Do you now have more compassion for this person? 

Consider Your Social Impact

Next time that you are faced with making an impactful decision, challenge yourself to implement 1 new tool in addition to the traditional pros and cons list with which we are so familiar.

The tool: Think about the social impact of your decision in addition to the personal impact of your decision. (ie, How will this decision impact the environment, or how will it impact your capacity to volunteer with people/organizations that support a positive social cause?)

Does your decision now reflect a more socially responsible contribution to your social ecosystem? 

Get Curious About Yourself

Get Curious About Yourself

Finally, make an effort to tune in with a new curiosity about yourself the next time you become irritated or overwhelmed.

Leave the judgment out, and gently ask yourself, “Am I acting out of fear? Am I acting from past rejection or emotional wounds from my past? How would I respond differently if my fear or hurt was not a part of my behavior at this moment?” (ie, You feel extreme anger if your boss asks you to correct a mistake and you recall that this reminds you of a personal relationship from your past when you always felt criticized.)

Does your new self- awareness create a more emotionally regulated response? 

Benefits of Social Emotional Learning for Adults

Why does this matter? Well, because these techniques will ripple into our society to create exponential growth in the way we treat each other and the way we take care of ourselves which will likely greatly enhance our collective quality of life, and I, for one, am here for it!

In addition to Julie’s great blog post above, we wanted to add:

There are several benefits of social emotional learning for adults

benefits of social emotional learning for adults

  1. Improved self-awareness: SEL helps adults to better understand their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. This self-awareness can lead to increased self-confidence and improved decision-making.
  2. Better communication: SEL helps adults to develop better communication skills, including active listening and expressing themselves clearly and effectively. This can improve personal relationships and work-related communication.
  3. Reduced stress: By learning strategies for emotional regulation, adults can better manage stress and reduce the negative impact it can have on their physical and mental health.
  4. Improved conflict resolution: SEL teaches adults skills for resolving conflicts in healthy, productive ways. This can lead to stronger relationships and reduced stress.
  5. Increased empathy: SEL helps adults develop empathy and understanding towards others, leading to improved relationships and greater collaboration in the workplace.
  6. Enhanced leadership skills: SEL helps adults develop leadership skills, including emotional intelligence, decision-making, and effective communication. This can lead to improved job performance and career advancement.
  7. Greater resilience: By learning skills for managing emotions and coping with stress, adults can become more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks.
  8. Improved well-being: Overall, SEL can improve adults’ overall sense of well-being by improving their emotional and social competencies and leading to stronger, more positive relationships with others.

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