Social Skills

Social skills are the skills a person needs to communicate, relate and socialize with other people. Based on that set of skills people often judge whether a person can be their friend, or, whether he or she deserves a promotion. Social skills can include simple things such as saying "hello" or "goodbye" and taking turns in conversations, although they could also involve negotiations in situations involving conflict. Dictionary definitions include the "ability to communicate, persuade, and interact with other members of the society, without undue conflict or disharmony" and "the personal skills needed for successful social communication and interaction."

Having good social skills is of high importance for a person's success in most aspects of life. In general, people with strong social skills are more popular, which means that they usually have better support networks to turn to when in difficulty. It is important to note that the concept of social skills is different among different cultures and that social skills include verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. Simply put verbal social skills include knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. People who have good verbal social skills often speak in a clear voice with confidence. At the same time, having a mono-tonal voice, speaking too softly or too loudly, are considered to be signs of poor verbal social skills.

Non-verbal social skills include body language such as standing up straight, making eye contact and appropriate gestures and smiling when greeting people. Being a good listener is another key ability, including making quick comments at the right time and clearly taking in the things said by the other person involved in a conversation. The feeling that both people involved in the conversation are taking an equal part is seen as evidence of advanced social skills. When using non-verbal skills it is important to consider what is appropriate or inappropriate. For example, people who smile too too much could be seen as untrustworthy, while entering into someone else's personal space could be interpreted as rudeness.

The use of certain social skills depends on the situation involved. It is important to be aware of relationships with others as communication with adults, peers, relatives or managers is different. In order to use adequate skills it is also crucial to consider the place or event of any meeting and the cultural setting. There are many factors to consider in the use of social skills. This could include greeting others; handling emotions such as anger; making requests or responding to questions; restaurant etiquette; personal hygiene and respecting social boundaries.

Learning how to interact with other people is a necessity when it comes to being a member of any kind of group, whether it involves family, neighborhood, school, work or community organization. The need for an improvement in social skills arises if a person considers themselves to be shy or wishes they had more friends; if they feel uncomfortable among other people; don't know what to say in everyday situations; or feel that there is nobody to turn to for support.

There are several steps when teaching social skills. First, it is important to identify the skill he or she wants to teach and define the social group, the setting and the situation. As a rule it is better to learn social skills before the actual event. Such skills need to be taught in small steps. One of the most effective ways to practice social skills is in a role-play situation. Immediate feedback and reinforcement are crucial for the process of teaching social skills although it is important to recognise that this process takes time.

Many people take social skills for granted, while others make great efforts to learn to acquire certain these skills, due to their significant importance for all communication with the outside world. Social ineptitude is the term used to describe the lack of social skills or in other words the inability to use these skills to communicate. Learning social skills is especially challenging for people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. It is usually difficult for people affected by these conditions to interpret and use voice inflection, sarcasm and body language. Using social skills can also be challenging for people with social anxiety disorder and language disorders.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Social Skills of Children and Adolescents: Conceptualization, Assessment, Treatment
Kenneth W. Merrell; Gretchen A. Gimpel.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Early Years Play and Learning: Developing Social Skills and Cooperation
Pat Broadhead.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2004
Behavioral, Social, and Emotional Assessment of Children and Adolescents
Kenneth W. Merrell.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Social Skills Training for Young Adolescents: Cognitive and Performance Components
Thompson, Kathryn L.; Bundy, Kaarre A.; Wolfe, Wende R.
Adolescence, Vol. 31, No. 123, Fall 1996
Social Skills Training for Young Adolescents: Symbolic and Behavioral Components
Thompson, Kathryn L.; Bundy, Kaarre A.; Broncheau, Christina.
Adolescence, Vol. 30, No. 119, Fall 1995
Curriculum Strategies: Social Skills Intervention for Young African-American Males
George R. Taylor.
Praeger, 1997
Social Skills Training to Reduce Depression in Adolescents
Reed, Michael K.
Adolescence, Vol. 29, No. 114, Summer 1994
The Development and Treatment of Childhood Aggression
Debra J. Pepler; Kenneth H. Rubin.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "A Social-Cognitively Based Social Skills Training Program for Aggressive Children"
Handbook of Psychological Treatment Protocols for Children and Adolescents
Vincent B. Van Hasselt; Michel Hersen.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Social Skills Training for Children and Youth with Visual Disabilities"
Advances in School Psychology
Thomas R. Kratochwill.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.6, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Issues in the Conceptualization, Classification, and Assessment of Social Skills in the Mildly Handicapped"
Interpreting Outcomes of Social Skills Training for Students with High-Incidence Disabilities
Gresham, Frank M.; Sugai, George; Horner, Robert H.
Exceptional Children, Vol. 67, No. 3, Spring 2001
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