Do you care that your neighbor’s son just did the CUTEST thing? Or that your grandmother needs more fiber in her diet? Or that your best friends cat has learned to fetch? Probably not. But do all these people matter to you in some way? Probably so.
You’ve learned what Michelle Garcia Winner over at Social Thinking calls the Social Fake. The Social Fake is when the person matters to you, the relationship matters to you, but the current topic of conversation does not. Because the person matters to you, you listen. You nod, smile, oooooh and ahhh at the right times.
A great resource to use when teaching this skill is this clip from the Big Bang Theory. Amy just wants the butter, Sheldon just wants to discuss video gaming consoles. When Sheldon points out to Amy that she’s not listening, she abruptly changes her behavior and engages in the conversation – seamlessly modeling the Social Fake.
I extend this lesson by discussing motivations in conversations (Sheldon wants input on the best gaming console, Amy just wants the butter) and (with my adults) I discuss how the Social Fake applies to dating. We also use this clip to discuss how changing your behavior can change someone else’s behavior (when Amy fakes being interested, Sheldon finally listens and hands her the butter).
It’s important that your students know that Social Faking applies to topics, not people. If the person is important but the topic is boring you may want to Social Fake your way through that so as to not hurt the relationship you have with the other person. If the topic is boring, the person is boring and you do not want nor care about a relationship with them, then I tell my students to politely end the conversation and move on. For example, I do not use Social Fake with door to door salesmen, I don’t care about the topic and I do not have a relationship with that person, so I politely end the conversation and move on.
For more information/resources on the Social Fake: