A social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization. For socialization, Interpersonal skills are essential to relate one another. Interpersonal skills are the interpersonal acts a person uses to interact with others which are related to dominance vs. submission, love vs. hate, affiliation vs. aggression, control vs. autonomy categories (Leary, 1957). Positive interpersonal skills include persuasion, active listening, delegation, and stewardship among others. Social psychology is the academic discipline that does research related to social skills, the discipline studies how skills are learned by an individual through changes in attitude, thinking, and behavior.
Enumeration and categorization
Social skills are the tools that enable people to communicate, learn, ask for help, get their needs met in appropriate ways, get along with others, make friends and develop healthy relationships, protect themselves, and generally be able to interact with the society harmoniously. Social skill builds essential character traits like trustworthiness, respectfulness, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These traits help to build an internal moral compass, allowing individuals to make good choices in thinking and behavior, resulting in social competence.
- Coordination – Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
- Mentoring – Teaching and helping others how to do something (e.g. a study partner).
- Negotiation – Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
- Persuasion – Motivating others to change their minds or behavior.
- Service Orientation – Actively looking for ways to involve compassionately and grow psycho-socially with people.
- Social Perceptiveness – Being aware of others' reactions and able to understandingly respond to responses.
Social skills are goal oriented with both main- and sub-goals. For example, a workplace interaction initiated by a new employee with a senior employee at first will be with the main goal to gather information and the sub goal will be to establishing rapport in order to obtain the main goal.
Causes of deficits
Deficits in social skills were categorized by Gresham in 1998 as failure to recognize and reflect social skills, failure to model appropriate models, failure to perform acceptable behavior in particular situations in relation to developmental and transitional stages.
Social skills are significantly impaired in people suffering from alcoholism due to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol on the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. The social skills that are impaired by alcohol abuse include impairments in perceiving facial emotions, prosody perception problems, and theory of mind deficits; the ability to understand humor is also impaired in alcohol abusers. Impairments in social skills also occur in individuals who suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; these deficits persist throughout affected people's lives and may worsen over time due to the effects of aging on the brain.
ADHD and hyperkinetic disorder
People with ADHD and hyperkinetic disorder (a more severe form of ADHD) more often have difficulties with social skills, such as social interaction and forming and maintaining friendships. Approximately half of ADHD children and adolescents will experience peer rejection compared to 10–15 percent of non-ADHD youth. Adolescents with ADHD are less likely to develop close friendships, although it might be easier by the time adolescents age into adulthood and enter the workplace. Difficulties in sustaining romantic relationships may also occur in high school and college aged individuals with ADHD. Training in social skills, behavioural modification and medication may have some limited beneficial effects; the most important factor in reducing emergence of later psychopathology is the ADHD individual forming friendships with people who are not involved in deviant/delinquent activities. Poor peer relationships can contribute to major depression, criminality, school failure, and substance use disorders. Adolescents with ADHD are more likely to find it difficult in making and keeping friends due to their attention deficits causing impairments in processing verbal and nonverbal language which is important for social skills and adolescent interaction; this may result in such adolescents being regarded by their peers as immature or as social outcasts. Romantic relationships are usually difficult in the adolescent and college age because of the lack of attention of non verbal cues such as flirting gestures, tone of voice, which may include misinterpretation if whether the person is romantically attracted to that person, along with the impulsiveness of "jumping into" relationships.
As a rule, people with autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's syndrome have a deficit within social skills. This is most likely the result of the lack of theory of mind, which enables the person to understand other people's emotions. Many people in the spectrum have many social idiosyncrasies such as obsessive interests and routines, lack of eye contact, one sided conversations, abnormal body language and non-verbal communication. The concept of social skills has been questioned in terms of autistic spectrum. In response for the needs of children with autism, Romanczyk has suggested for adapting comprehensive model of social acquisitions with behavioral modification rather than specific response's tailored for social contexts.
Anxiety and depression
Individuals with few opportunities to socialize with others often struggle with social skills. This can often create a downward spiral for people with conditions like anxiety or depression. Due to anxiety experienced from concerns with interpersonal evaluation and from fear of negative reaction by others, surfeit expectations of failure or social rejection in socialization's leads to avoiding or shutting themselves from social interactions. Due to depression, people avoid opportunities to socialize, which impairs their social skills, which makes socialization even more unattractive.
The authors of the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work explore psychopathy in workplace. The FBI consultants describe a five phase model of how a typical workplace psychopath climbs to and maintains power. They conclude many traits exhibited by these individuals were consistent with psychopathy: superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity, manipulativeness, grandiosity, lack of empathy, low on agreeableness, exploitativeness, independence, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies. Babiak and Hare say for corporate psychopaths, success is defined as the best revenge and their problem behaviors are repeated "ad infinitum" due to little insight and their proto-emotions such as "anger, frustration, and rage" is refracted as irresistible charm. The authors note that lack of emotional literacy and moral conscience is often confused with toughness, the ability to make hard decisions, and effective crisis management. Babiak and Hare also emphasizes a reality they identified with psychopaths from studies that "there is no evidence that psychopaths can benefit from treatment or management programs positively".
Emily Grijalva at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York, investigating narcissism in business found there are two forms of narcissism: "vulnerable" and "grandiose". It is her finding that "moderate" level of grandiose narcissism is linked to becoming an effective manager. Grandiose narcissists are characterized as confident; They possess unshakable belief that they are superior, even when it's unwarranted. They can be charming, pompous show-offs, and can also be selfish, exploitative and entitled. Jens Lange and Jan Crusius at the University of Cologne, Germany associates "malicious-benign" envy within narcissistic social climbers in workplace. It is their finding that grandiose narcissists are less prone to low self-esteem and neuroticism and are less susceptible to the anxiety and depression that can affect vulnerable narcissists when coupled with envy. They characterize vulnerable narcissists as those who "believe they are special, and want to be seen that way–but are just not that competent, or charming. As a result, their self-esteem fluctuates a lot. They tend to be self-conscious and passive, but also prone to outbursts of potentially violent aggression if their inflated self-image is threatened." Richard Boyatzis says this is an unproductive form of expression of emotions that the person can’t share constructively, which reflects lack of appropriate skills. Eddie Brummelman, a social and behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Brad Bushman at Ohio State University in Columbus says studies show that in western culture narcissism is on the rise from shifting focus on the self rather than on relationships and concludes that all narcissism to be socially undesirable ("unhealthy feelings of superiority"). David Kealy at the University of British Columbia in Canada states that narcissism might aid temporarily but in the long run it is better to be true to oneself, having personal integrity and being kind to others.
To behaviorists, social skills are learned behavior that allow people to achieve social reinforcement. According to Schneider & Byrne (1985), who conducted a meta-analysis of social skills training procedures (51 studies), operant conditioning procedures for training social skills had the largest effect size, followed by modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques. Behavior analysts prefer to use the term behavioral skills to social skills. Behavioral skills training to build social and other skills is used with a variety of populations including in packages to treat addictions as in the community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT).
Training of behavioral skills is also used for people who suffer from borderline personality disorder, depression, and developmental disabilities. Typically behaviorists try to develop what are considered cusp skills, which are critical skills to open access to a variety of environments. The rationale for this type of an approach to treatment is that people meet a variety of social problems and can reduce the stress and punishment from the encounter in a safe environment as well as increase their reinforcement by having the correct skills.
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Basic interpersonal communicative skills
- Circle of friends (disability)
- Dark triad
- DISCO – European Dictionary of Skills and Competences
- Emotional intelligence
- Life skills
- Metacommunicative competence
- People skills
- Social anxiety
- Social behavior
- Social cognition
- Social dynamics
- Social intelligence
- Social reality
- Soft skills
- Teaching Social Skills to Youth
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