HUMANS SEEM TO HAVE an innate predisposition to commune with one another. Our ability to develop sophisticated methods for communicating both within and between generations is the core dimension that separates us from all other species. As illustrated in Chapter 1, the better able we are to communicate, the more successful we will be in all walks of life. Effective interpersonal skills allow us to develop and maintain relational bonds so that, as noted by Ryff and Singer (2000:30), 'Quality ties to others are universally endorsed as central to optimal living.'
This book has been concerned with an examination of the central components of interpersonal communication, namely the skills that individuals employ in order to achieve their goals in social encounters. The theory behind the skills approach to the study of interpersonal behaviour, as outlined in Chapters 1 and 2, has provided a key conceptual framework that has been successfully applied across numerous settings and in a wide range of research studies (Dickson, 1999b; Hargie and Tourish, 1999).
Thus there is a solid theoretical base underpining the skills perspective. In his historical overview of this field, Argyle (1999:142) noted, 'One of the implications of looking at social behaviour as a social skill was the likelihood that it could be trained.' This proved to be the case, and there has been an enormous explosion of interest in communication skills training (Dickson et al., 1997). When individuals receive systematic skills tuition, their social performance has been shown to improve (Hargie, 1997c). Not surprisingly, there has been a concomitant and exponential growth in publications pertaining to interpersonal skills, within a variety of social and professional contexts. As evidenced by the references in this text, research in this field has been voluminous.