Social Skills = Life Skills

Social Skills = Life Skills
Social skills are a group of skills which people need to interact and communicate with
others. They are arguably the most important set of abilities a person can have.
Human beings are social animals, and a lack of good social skills can lead to a lonely
life, contributing to anxiety and depression.
Having good social skills helps children to interact well with their teachers and peers
at school, both in and outside of the classroom. Imagine what it might be like for an
individual, sitting in a classroom who is unable to listen to or fully understand the
nuances of communication (i.e. subtle remarks, facial or hand gestures). This leads
one to ask further, how well do people listen? Do they make eye contact? Are they
comfortable and confident in social situations? For both children and adults at school,
mastering and using social skills is vital.
In school, children need good social skills for the following:
- Friendship making
- Understanding and expressing emotions constructively
- Attention and listening
- Accepting responsibility
- Developing assertiveness and a good self-concept
- Using effective problem-solving strategies
- Working cooperatively
- Dealing with teasing, bullying and victimization
The development of social skills is an ongoing process. However, these skills can be
taught. You can help your children by giving them the following advice:
1) Focus on staying relaxed:
Regardless of how skillful you are in social situations, if you are too anxious, your
brain is functioning in way unsuited to speaking and listening. In addition, if your
body and face give the unconscious message that you are nervous, it will be
more difficult to build relationships with others.
2) Concentrate on listening to others when they are talking, and let others know
you are listening to them by:
Making 'I'm listening' noises - 'Uh-huh', 'really?', 'oh yes?' etc.
Feeding back what you've heard - "So he went to the dentist? What
Referring back to others' comments later on - "You know how you were
saying earlier…"
Being physically still, making eye contact and being attentive while the
other person is talking.
3) Focus on developing empathy with and interest in others' situations:
A major part of social anxiety is self consciousness, which is greatly alleviated by
focusing strongly on someone else. A fascination (even if forced at first) with
another's conversation not only increases your comfort levels, it makes them feel
4) Build rapport with others:
Rapport is a state of understanding or connection that occurs in a good social
interaction. It says basically "I am like you, we understand each other". Rapport
occurs on an unconscious level, but it can be encouraged by:
Body posture 'mirroring', or movement 'matching' the other person.
Reflecting back language and speech, including rate, volume, tone,
and words.
Feeding back what you have heard, as in 2) above.
5) Know how, when and how much to talk about yourself:
Talking about yourself too much and too early can be a major turn-off for the
other person in conversation. Good initial small-talk is often characterised by
discussion of subjects not personal to either party, or by an exchanging of
personal views in a balanced way. However, as conversations and relationships
progress, disclosing personal facts (small, non-emotional ones first!) leads to a
feeling of getting to know each other.
6) Make appropriate eye contact:
Eye contact rules vary between cultures, but in general, if you don't look at
someone when you are talking or listening to them, they will get the idea that:
You are ignoring them
You are untrustworthy
You don't like the look of them!
This doesn't mean you have to stare at them. In fact, staring at someone while
talking to them can give them the feeling you are angry with them.
Give your children plenty of opportunities to interact with other children, so that
they can learn from each other, and encourage them to talk about what they
have learnt with you. As the social psychologist Zick Rubin puts it,
“Children, then, acquire social skills not so much from adults as from
their interactions with one another. They are likely to discover
through trial and error which strategies work and which do not, and
later to reflect consciously on what they have learned.”