When we think of social skills, we might not immediately think of personal hygiene. However, following the social rules that go along with having good personal hygiene is a crucial component of being a competent social communicator. When we communicate with other people, we can pick up on social cues related to hygiene and personal care. We often find that lack of awareness about personal hygiene can have a negative impact on an individual's ability to make and maintain friendships. We might be holding ourselves back from the friendships we want to have because of poor personal hygiene and lack of awareness.
Following social rules related to personal care and hygiene can be one of the most impactful social skills to learn directly. This is in part because if someone doesn’t follow the social rules related to hygiene, others may not give the necessary feedback they need to change their habits. Self awareness is crucial for following the social rules associated with personal hygiene. We typically can’t rely on others to give us feedback in this area because talking about personal care and hygiene with someone you don’t know well can feel uncomfortable, or come across as being too personal too fast.
Check out the top 5 social rules related to personal care and hygiene:
- Bathing: We all sweat and accumulate dirt and grease during the day, and washing our bodies and hair with warm water, soap, and a loofah every day will ensure a healthy body and happy friends. The general rule is that teens and adults should shower or bathe daily. And while there are certainly exceptions to every rule (e.g. long day, early morning, overslept, etc.), our friends and family will appreciate us for following the social rule for daily bathing.
- Body Odor: Beginning when we are teenagers, using deodorant becomes an essential component of our personal hygiene routines. If we have bad body odor, we can be perceived in a negative light by our friends, family, or the public groups we find ourselves in. Body odor is an easy personal hygiene component that we can check our selves. A quick sniff of our armpits (while no one is looking) can give us valuable information about how others might perceive us.
- Oral Care: Taking care of our mouths is important not only for our physical health, but for the health of our friendships as well. Good oral hygiene consists of brushing our teeth twice a day, flossing, and making sure that our breath is fresh. Oral hygiene is an especially important social skill to follow when we find ourselves in close relationships, and professions or situations where we are close to other people. A quick check of the breath can save us from embarrassment later on. We have all most likely experienced that moment when we get a piece of food stuck between our front teeth. Hopefully we have a kind friend or stranger share this information with us. However, when the personal hygiene rule being broken is brushing our teeth or flossing, we might not get the verbal feedback from our friends or families we need to demonstrate good oral hygiene. When we brush our teeth daily and learn to do quick and subtle ‘breath checks,’ our friends will thank us.
- Clothing: Wearing clean clothes is an essential component of having good personal hygiene. While everyone may have slightly different habits regarding what clothes they wear daily, the social rule is that our clothes need to be clean. Some people may wash their jeans or heavier clothes less frequently, but we certainly agree that wearing undergarments, socks, and exercise or gardening clothes two days in a row goes against social rules related to personal hygiene. Try the smell test and do a visual inspection - if there are smells and dirt lingering on your clothing, think twice before putting them on again. These clothes belong in the laundry hamper, not on your body.
- Nail Care: Nail care is another important personal hygiene rule that attention should be given to. Our finger and toenails should be kept clean, trimmed, and free of dirt. A good first step could be as simple as remembering to wash our hands when they are dirty. Everyone's nails grow at different rates, but the general rule is to trim our nails every few weeks. Some people choose to leave this task up to professionals. Men and women can go to a nail salon to get a simple manicure or pedicure, to ensure clean and maintained hands and feet.
Personal care and hygiene is an essential component of being a good social communicator. By following the social rules associated with having good hygiene, we will be perceived positively by our friends and communities. When our outside appearance is clean and well maintained, we won’t have to worry about personal hygiene being the factor that negatively impact us making and maintaining friendships.