Sometimes, I find it disturbing that many people here (and I mean kids and adults alike) are just not curious enough compared to Westerners whom I have across.
The difference is so striking at times and is evident in social settings as well as at workplaces and schools.
It is often challenging to keep a conversation going with them. Besides brief replies and a few basic patronising questions, they seem to run out of topic or ideas. Perhaps it also has to do with their general lack of interest in matters that do not concern them. I would also attribute such behaviour partly to our Asian culture and upbringing.
If I keep it up by asking tons of questions, and I can think of tons of questions to ask, whether I am facing a stranger, acquaintance or old friend, getting their brief responses after a while makes me feel as if I have intruded into their privacy and space.
Upon reflection, I realised I was also like this in my younger days. However, over the years, I have been inspired to be more sociable, especially after living in London for a few years. This is not to say that all Londoners are sociable either. I have learnt to respond differently in social situations and I am still honing my skills.
Despite seeing my social skills at work on a daily basis, my boys have yet to pick up much to set them apart from the rest. Leave either of them in a confined space with a few other kids or adults and we will quickly notice them ending up chatting to only one or two others, if not, they would spend most of their time just staring at their shoes.
Chip warms up to strangers a lot faster and he seems more willing to initiate a conversation with other kids, whereas it will take a lot more to bring M out of his comfort zone.
The boys' personalities definitely have a lot to do with their reactions in social situations. While I have no intention to change the more introverted child into an extrovert, I do feel strongly that social and interpersonal skills can be taught and coached, even for a young child.
Like memory, critical thinking and creativity, I believed these skills are underrated, poorly understood and definitely not emphasized enough in the mainstream education system. Just because the kids are part of big classes and a big school of 1800 children does not mean they will automatically acquire a reasonable level of social and interpersonal skills. I also don't believe that it is a given that everyone will acquire 'proficient' level of social and interpersonal skills by the time they are adults. If this is true, then our society will not be filled with adults who have difficulties striking and/or maintaining conversations.
Obviously, I don't have the magic formula and I am still researching and testing ways to hone the kids' skills. I will be thrilled if any of the readers would share with me (either via comments to this blog or contact me directly) your ways that you practise with your kids and your experiences in this area.