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What Are Social Skills?

Good social skills are an asset in business.
Social skills include being able to relate to and communicate with others.
Someone who crosses their arms during conversation may be communicating defensiveness.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 April 2014
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Social skills are most often thought of as a set of skills that allow people to communicate, relate and socialize with others. They include both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication, and may be defined differently from one culture to another. These skills often are the way others determine a person's status, consider people as potential friends or mates, and consider them for employment or promotions in the workplace. The opposite is social ineptitude, which is an inability to use those elements that would make one a good communicator.

In most English speaking countries, social skills are both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal ones include being able to determine the appropriate thing to say at the appropriate time, being able to communicate in ways that are engaging, have a range of vocal tone and quality, and being able to speak in an educated but reasonably understandable manner. In a sense, such skills are judged by what a person says, when he says it, and how he says it.

People with good verbal skills in the US are thought to speak with a clear voice, have inflection, speak appropriately to a situation, and have confidence in their voice. Poor skills might be read as having a monotonal voice, saying the wrong thing, speaking too softly to be heard or too loudly to be tolerated, or simply speaking on boring topics. The person who can only address one topic is also thought to have poor social skills.

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Since there are regional dialects in the US, verbal skills may also be judged by accent or lack thereof. A person who lives in the South but comes from California might be considered as having a grating voice because he or she does not have a Southern accent. Conversely, a speaker from California might think of the Southerner who speaks slowly with a heavy accent as less educated. People with accents from other countries, except British accents, tend to be considered by some as less intelligent than those who speak in clear English. The way a speaker’s voice is perceived can cause a person to make snap judgments about him, though these are often incorrect.

The other aspect of social skills is nonverbal. Body language, standing up straight, making eye contact, making appropriate gestures, leaning toward the person one is speaking to, smiling appropriately, and keeping the body open can all define good nonverbal skills. It should be noted that these things can be overdone. Gestures can be too dramatic, people who smile too much may not be trusted, and leaning too far forward into someone else’s personal space may be considered rude.

In addition, the person with good nonverbal skills listens well. Nodding of the head, the occasional quick comment, and clearly taking in someone else’s communications is valuable. People don’t simply want to be talked to; they want to be talked with. A sense that both communicators are taking equal part in a conversation demonstrates advanced social skills.

Though these skills can be learned, some people seem to have an innate sense of good ones. Others may struggle because of communication disabilities. For example, those with autism, nonverbal learning disorders, and Asperger’s all have an extremely hard time interpreting voice inflection, sarcasm, and body language. They also may have difficulty using voice inflection or sarcasm, and their body language may poorly communicate with others.

Those with social anxiety disorder may be challenged by feelings of panic when in certain social situations that make putting these skills to work very problematic. Though many people can conquer social anxiety, those with verifiable language disorders often face an uphill battle in having relationships and learning to be judged by their inner qualities rather than by their lack of what the culture defines as social skills.

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anon232053
Post 12

@anon87392: If your social skills are very poor, don't worry. Social skills (like any other skill) can be learned. The bookstore has lots of books on social skills, or you can ask a socially competent friend to help. These and websites have great tips on social skills like conversation and body language. Hope that helps!

amypollick
Post 11

@davidmonk: My dad was a teacher, and said exactly what you did -- and that was 25 years ago. He said some parents are using TV and schools as babysitters and are completely giving up their responsibility to teach their children.

I see it in my workplace now. Some of the younger employees have few social skills, and their lack of concern for others is appalling. As long as it doesn't affect them, well, that's fine and dandy. If they don't know how to deal with something, they don't ask for help, and they frequently don't even attempt to solve the problem on their own. They just pass it off to someone convenient. As a result, by the time the customer gets to me, they've been bounced around all over the building and they're mad as a hornet. And this is a lack of social skills. The people dealing with them first do not have enough social skills to know how to ask politely how they can help and find out exactly what, and who, they need. It is incredibly frustrating. I suppose, if they don't learn it at home or school, it has now become the employer's job to send these people to a seminar of some sort to teach them social skills. Plus, they have to be taught *why* these skills are so important. Their laissez-faire attitude about nearly everything else translates into an eye-rolling casualness about such things. It's extremely discouraging and frustrating.

Anyway, I am obviously in wholehearted agreement with you that parents need to take up the mantle of responsibility and teach their children basic social skills!

davidmonk
Post 10

The lack of social skills is becoming more evident as the education in schools is failing, as are parenting skills. Parents leave the education of their children to the schools and so the child is not taught the social skills and moral code that is necessary for people to live in harmony.

A breakdown in society is looming as core values to what makes a good human being are fading away.

The three R's of: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic are three essentials a child should be taught. We could add more of the R's; Relationships, Respect.

Children need to be taught the values of a moral code that are simply contained in the social law of "Love thy neighbour as yourself."

Children have to be taught to love and respect their fellow beings and elders. It involves us all and if we think it is not our place to teach then we are shirking our responsibility. In every part of our lives, we should show by example. The good example of how to behave in any situation becomes a lesson to someone else. If we do not set a good example ourselves, then how can we expect others to behave well.

Society can easily fall back into the situation that was once written about; "and everyone did that which was right in their own eyes". The situation was intolerable to God and anyone who believes in the Flood knows of the consequences mankind brought upon himself. God had promised that he will not flood the earth again and yet mankind is heading towards a situation where God will have intervene if mankind is to be saved. God has a right to be angry with mankind for its foolishness in not listening to him and we who recognize that God is in control and has a plan and knows what will happen in the future, has the power to bring His plan to fruition.

"Unless the days of man be shortened, no flesh shall be saved". Here in is the promise of hope for those that might wonder what the world is coming to as we witness the violence and breakdown of society. We might not be able to solve the world's problems alone, but we can do our part in our own small way and give hope to those you have yet to find out and understand these things.

anon154677
Post 8

Not that I'm spamming or something, but I believe we can overcome any problem and become whatever we want to, if we really want to and take action. I bought Social Dynamix. it's a great program. I haven't finished it yet, but it's already made quite a difference.

anon134209
Post 7

@ anon113286 and anon87392: I feel the same way, especially about losing old friends. Social anxiety is crushing my will to live. I don't have any answers in this moment but just want you guys to hold on strong, and let you know your not alone. I'm going through the same crap. We're in this together. Peace.

ahardeman
Post 6

Re anon113286: I want to tell you something about that statement. It's ok to "feel" certain ways about many things and situations. But the word "life" I think should be stricken from your sentence as well as from your mind and heart especially when you perceive a social problem.

I think it would be better if you said and viewed and felt like "your social game" wasn't up to par as far as your own personal expectations. Furthermore, despite the fact that they may never be it doesn't mean you should stop trying to find other solutions, approaches and options.

I want you to look at your own words: "I want to let loose and be myself." Wow, that's fire. That's life in itself, that a seed of passion. I'd say stick with that passion which is hard to find most have apathy and less concern these days. I'd say take the passion to let loose find the right environment, hobby, or patiently await the new people who got enough to appreciate where you're coming from, if it is at all necessary, because sometimes your hobbies and lifestyle may not even allow others to fit into your schedule. if you know what I mean.

And that's the good things about friends in life. They come and they go. Sometimes the good part is that they go, but it doesn't mean you forget about those good times you had with them for whatever reason.

I'd say get a hobby; not a trite one but a challenging one. That probably will lead to you inadvertently bumping into others with like interest. Stay with the hobby. Watch the friends come and go like a revolving door to which you'll say not everybody can come in.

Also, if you want to improve your communication skills, work on them in a technical way, not in a way that's defined by those in a closed circle group. No offense to them, but you may be giving them more credit than they deserve at being able to give you signs of being a good or bad communicator or socialite. They may be far from perfect at knowing what they're doing.

Upon closing, again separate your "feeling" from your entire life. It should never be in that balance. Connect your feeling and feelings to "feeling like letting loose" as you said. Keep that life force and life feeling going. I love to meet people who feel like letting loose. Again a rare and valuable thing.

anon113286
Post 4

i have the worst communication skills ever! i freeze up and i don't know what to say. i stay in my own little shell and it seems like I'm losing all of my old friends plus the new ones.

i don't know how to let loose and be myself and I've been thinking that maybe time will heal it but it just keeps getting worse and worse. and i feel like life is not worth it for me.

sorry i have bad grammar and all but I'm writing all this in a hurry.

anon87392
Post 2

My communication skills are very poor so if you can, send me some social skills tips for me.

tdwb7476
Post 1

While some social skills, and perhaps a real mastery is only inherited, to the degree social skills can be taught, I think they should be. Competent social skill are often critical elements to successful and happy lives.

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