Quick Facts

  • Social communication is necessary to have successful roles and relationships
  • Social communication requires an individual to change how they communicate in different environments (e.g. at home, at work) and with different individuals (e.g. partner, employer)
  • This can be very challenging for an individual with a brain injury
  • Poor social communication may make it difficult for a person with a brain injury to participate in their community

What does it
look like?

Social dysfunction:

  • Misinterpretation of social cues
  • Lack of consideration for another person’s feelings
  • Inappropriate sexual aggression
  • Irritation, distress, frustration
  • Limited or faulty interpretation of another person’s actions or words

Poor social communication:

  • Disorganized communication, gives too little or too much information
  • Rambles on and repeats themselves
  • Unable to read other people’s emotions or body language
  • Reduced eye contact, limited facial expression
  • Difficulty starting a conversation, lack of turn-taking in conversation
  • Lack of awareness or sensitivity to the person they are talking with
  • Difficulty understanding personal space
  • Excessive swearing, quick to express anger or yell
  • Inappropriate sexual comments or jokes

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Memory difficulties can lead to:
    • Repeating oneself during conversations
    • Losing track of the topic of conversation
    • Mixing up messages or instructions
  • Cognitive difficulties, including:
    • Attention and concentration problems
    • Inability to resist distractions during conversation
    • Difficulty keeping track of what people are saying
    • Difficulty staying on topic
  • Executive function difficulties can lead to:
    • Difficulty starting conversations
    • Interrupting others
    • Poorly organized speech
    • Excessive talking
  • Lack of social understanding can lead to:
    • Difficulty understanding sarcasm or humour
    • Poor understanding of feedback from communication partners
    • Difficulty seeing things from a different perspective

Possible complications:

  • It may lead to the individual being unsuccessful in their roles and relationships in daily life, resulting in the breakdown of relationships and friendships
  • Social isolation may occur as a result of difficulty:
    • Securing and maintaining friendships
    • Finding and maintaining employment
    • Participating in leisure activities

What can we do?

  • Speak clearly and in concise terms to reduce the possibility of misinterpretation
  • Assist the individual to understand words and social cues
  • Prepare the individual for community participation by focusing on appropriate social behaviour
  • Create social opportunities that are predictable to practice social communication and interactions
  • Direct the individual to ask basic questions to start conversations (e.g. “how are you?” or “what have you been doing?”)
  • Use positive reinforcement anytime the individual expresses an interest in another person’s feelings
  • Provide the individual with clear, concise and frequent feedback on how their behaviour is affecting you (e.g., “your yelling makes it hard for me to help you because I can’t understand you.”)
  • Anticipate potential social criticisms and have the individual rehearse appropriate responses

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.