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Social skills are skills a social animal uses to interact and communicate with others to assist status in the social structure and other motivations. Social rules and social relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways creating social complexity. From an evolutionary psychology perspective this useful in identifying outsiders and intelligent breeding partners. The process of learning these and other related skills is called socialization.

Amongst humans social skills may be seen as enabling the growth of social capabilities and attainment of human rights


Properties of polished social skills

  • Basic
    • Verbal
      • Smoothness of delivery (lacks stuttering, awkward pauses, etc.)
      • Intelligible speech (not too loud or soft, not dropping off the end of sentences)
      • Uses muscle words to help describe ideas in conversation (words designed to "grab" the attention of the listener)
      • Variable tone (avoidance of a monotonous tone)
      • Asks open-ended questions
    • Non-verbal
      • Active listening
      • Confident stance (standing up straight but not at attention)
      • Relaxed manner (not too tense, not falling asleep)
      • Body language in sync with the verbal message
      • Leans forward while talking
      • Open stance (not close hands)
      • Touching conversation partner (only in appropriate situations, as this can be misinterpreted)
      • SmilingSmile (but not overdoing)
      • Remembers and uses names during conversation

  • Complex
    • Skilled in diplomacy (how one handles disagreements)
    • Ability to feign interest
    • Expressing empathy in thought by giving accurate and kind feedback to show you understand.
    • Expressing feeling empathy by sharing the names of the feelings the speaker might be experiencing such as frustration, anger, hurt or love.

Social ineptitude

Social ineptitude is a lack of social skills. A person who is considered to lack social skills is said to be socially inept. However, the use of the term social ineptitude is considered derogatory by many. People who have pervasive developmental disorders such as autism and Asperger syndrome may have impaired social interaction, and are often described as socially inept. Recently the concept of social skills has been questioned in these contexts.[1] The question is whether one response is needed or whether any response tailored in a context will meet the requirements. Ramanczyk laid out a model of social acquisition for children with autism.

Many people with mental disorders (such as schizophrenia) also develop social skills deficits associated with the effects of their mental health issues, subsequent social withdrawal and lack of practice..

A belief in one's own social ineptitude, either real or imagined, is one of the diagnostic criteria for avoidant personality disorder. Additionally, the criteria for social ineptitude varies from culture to culture. A simile for social ineptness is shyness, though a shy person can be aware and adhere to social conventions, just as those who are bold can often be socially incompetent.

Social skills deficits may develop as a consequence of a person's temperament or character, those who are introverted may prefer not to mix with others and over a period of time are substantially less practiced than their more extroverted peers.


Social skills training is a well recognized behavior therapy. It is evidence based for several psychological disorders. Many organizations exist for behaviour therapists around the world. The World Association for Behavior Analysis offers a certification in behavior therapy, which covers social skills training techniques [1] In the United States, the American Psychological Association's Division 25 is the division for behaviour analysis. The Association for Contextual Behavior Therapy is another professional organization. ACBS is home to many clinicians with specific interest in third generation behaviour therapy. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (formerly the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy) is for those with a more cognitive orientation. Internationally, most behaviour therapists find a core intellectual home in the International Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA:I) [2].


Assessment of social skills may make use of the formal completion of social skills measures or more informally through naturalistic observation of a persons actual social behavior in social settings such as school playgrounds or day care facilities.

Social skills training

Where social skill deficits are identified social skills training programmes can be implemented to improve performance in idetified areas.

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts



Additional material



External links and references

Jon D. Williams Cotillions, teaching young people social skills for over 58 years]

Category Social skills

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
  1. Raymond G. Romanczyk, Sara White, and Jennifer M. Gillis (2005): Social Skills Versus Skilled Social Behavior: A Problematic Distinction in Autism Spectrum Disorders. JEIBI 2 (3), Pg. 177- 194 [4]