20yr olds social skills

Our 19yr old nephew is staying w us for the semester. His 21yr old sister lives in town and has a girlfriend so we’ve had lots of time w 20-ish family recently, which has mostly been awesome! One thing I’ve noticed is that none of them are very good at conversation, especially the back and forth part. Each of them seems comfortable talking about themself, but none of them has asked me, or my wife, a single question about our lives or work or how I made the salad dressing.. nothing!! Maybe they do this friends and not older adults? I’m seeing this same thing developing in my 10 and 14yr kids, even though we model good social skills. What do we do? Did u train your kids in how to do this? Will they eventually get it in their own? Thanks in advance!

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RE: 20yr olds social skills ()

Such a good question!!!  I’m wondering about this too. I get tumultuous sighs when I ask my teenagers questions about their day. Or barking one word answers. I think it’s screens/remote learning, etc.   Kids need to be reminded that people want to hear what they have to say no matter how mundane because that’s how you get to know people and learn communication skills.  I’m so interested to hear other people’s answers!!!  

RE: 20yr olds social skills ()

My girlfriend and I just had this conversation last night!  My kids are 21, 19, and 16, and this is a troubling trend we’ve noticed too.  My 16 y. o. son is the most socially awkward, and has trouble reading a room, but absolutely cannot have a comfortable conversation without it being about something he’s passionate about. My daughters can, but really only like to talk about themselves, and rarely ask how my week was, or if I have plans for the weekend, or what I think about something.  They are extremely self-centered, despite being taught to care for others.  I don’t get it, and don’t remember being that way, myself, but maybe it’s just a developmental thing.  I do try to encourage my son to ask me how my week was, after he’s told me all about his (we have 2 households), but that doesn’t seem to stick.  Can’t wait to read the answers for this question.  Thank you for asking it!  

RE: 20yr olds social skills ()

Interesting question! My kids are currently 19 and 16 and are generally pretty good at holding up their ends of a conversation though both might prefer to be in front of a screen! When I think about what might have helped them develop skills in this area, several things come to mind-- we always have family dinner, every night no matter what.  And we've built an expectation that we will have a pleasant conversation during dinner (no screens EVER, no arguing EVER).  I might share a funny story from my workday or note something which happened in the news which I think is important or interesting. The kids often have interesting comments and perspectives which spark further conversation. When they were younger we had a habit of going around the table and each sharing a 'highlight' from our days. When we have guests over for dinner (not lately!), I try to model polite engaging, reciprocal conversation in front of them (as opposed to letting them leave the table or room prematurely because they are bored or want to do their own thing) and often they join in. I also discourage them from having earbuds in while we are in the car-- I do let them pick the music in the car sometimes though, and that gives us something else to share and talk about.

Having said all this, I realize that the conversation flows a lot less freely with my 20-something year old nephew when we see him, unless it's primarily about his projects-- so i do think there is something developmental going on as well with teens and young adults. And maybe something cultural-- in many cultures there is much more emphasis on explicitly greeting other people (esp older ones), asking them about their lives, being warm and welcoming, etc. The U.S. is not really much of a hospitality culture compared to much of the rest of the world; we tend to focus more on efficiency than warmth. 

RE: 20yr olds social skills ()

Our kid went to the Urban School in SF. One of the aspects of the school that was most striking to me was that the teens were all genuinely engaged when talking to adults. They would come up to us, introduce themselves, and start a genuine conversation. I'm still amazed to think back on it. I don't know what it is about that particular school, but those teens gave me hope whenever I encountered someone in their teens/20s who could only talk within their own bubble of interest.

However, I don't know if it is a developmental stage. The person I know who is the absolute worst about this is my 85 year old father. On the phone he will ask how I am, but becomes very obviously bored if my reply is more than two sentences long. If I bring up a topic that I think might be of mutual interest, he is only interested when he can turn it into something about the people he has met with whom he is impressed, their accomplishments, his accomplishments. For example, when Donna Shalala was head of HHS under Clinton, any mention of government, politics, or the presidency was guaranteed to become a tribute to Secretary Shalala, with whom he had worked in the past. He is so self-absorbed that after years of High Holy Day services with myself and three of my younger cousins, he still hasn't made the effort to tell them apart (they look nothing alike). This isn't new, nor attributable to aging; he has always been like this. I love my father, and we actually have a great deal in common, but I can only take a few hours of interaction with him before I want to tear my hair out. 

RE: 20yr olds social skills ()


I think there are a few things going on, probably at the same time:

1 - You are probably not that interesting to them.  I remember being an older teen young adult, and I was not that interested in my mom and her friends.  I kept up my end of a polite conversation but I don't remember asking a lot of questions.  Are they able to have back and forth conversations with each other?

2 - Some of it is innate: My older daughter has always asked family about their days, even her little sister.  My younger daughter had to be told by a therapist to do this ask people questions.  Its not because she is self centered, but is very self conscious and is one of those people who is always thinking about what they are going to say so they don't sound stupid.  If you are talking about yourself, you are an expert.  This could be going on when they are talking to you, they may be feeling very self conscious.

3 - The 'rona.  No one is doing anything at all much less anything worth talking about and I think every single one of us is on a depression spectrum right now. 

Much like in any relationship, you've got to ask for what you want.  Tell them about your day, THEN ask them about theirs.  They will either get the hint or not come visit.