Brian H. Spitzberg and James Price Dillard
What does it mean to be a skilled person? Ordinarily, when we think of skill, we think of ability, capability, and proficiency. A skilled architect is one knowledgeable in the trade, the terms, and the tasks of designing buildings. He or she is able to produce products such as blueprints that are relatively error-free and meet the demands of the clients and context. A skilled tennis player knows the rules and tactical requirements of the game, and he or she is able to demonstrate this knowledge on the court through consistent performance at a reasonably high level of success.
These notions of skill do not seem problematic. However, a brief review illustrates just how complicated they are. What constitutes consistency in performance? Even the best tennis players have “off” days and runs of bad luck. What constitutes knowledge of a trade? An architect who specializes only in hospitals may be proficient with health care structures, but incompetent with houses or schools. What constitutes a reasonably high level of success? Is success in tennis avoiding mistakes and following the rules, or is it defined by a high winning record against opponents: Any opponents, or only those of comparable talent? Clearly, what constitutes skill, even in well-defined contexts, is difficult to specify.
A similar difficulty arises with the concept of social skills. Social skills are often referred to as social competence or interpersonal competence or communication competence. Social skill usually implies high quality, or profi