What is a social skill

What are Social Skills? | SkillsYouNeed

Social skills are the skills we use to communicate and interact with each other, both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language and our personal appearance.

Human beings are sociable creatures and we have developed many ways to communicate our messages, thoughts and feelings with others.

What is said is influenced by both verbal language and the way we use it - tone of voice, volume of speech and the words we choose - as well as by more subtle messages such as body language, gestures and other non-verbal communication methods.

The fact that some people are better 'social interactors' than others has led to detailed investigations into the nature and function of interpersonal interaction.

Developing social skills is about being aware of how we communicate with others, the messages we send and how methods of communication can be improved to make the way we communicate more efficient and effective.

There are distinct advantages to having well developed social skills.

Here are five:

1. More and Better Relationships

Identifying well with individuals leads to more relationships and, at times, friendships.

By developing your social skills you become more charismatic, a desirable trait . People are more interested in charismatic people as charismatic people are (or at least appear to be) more interested in them.

Most people know you cannot advance far in life without strong interpersonal relationships. Focusing on relationships will help you get a job, get promoted and make new friends. Well honed social skills can increase your happiness and satisfaction and give you a better outlook on life.

More relationships can also help to reduce the negative effects of stress and boost your self-esteem.

2. Better Communication

Relating with people and being able to work in large groups naturally develops one's communication skills.

After all, you can not have great social skills without good communication skills and being able to convey one's thoughts and ideas may be the single most important skill that you can develop in life..

3. Greater Efficiency

If you are good with people, you can more easily avoid being with the people you do not like as much as others.

Some people dread social interactions because they do not wish to spend time with individuals who do not have similar interests and viewpoints. It is a lot easier to attend a meeting at work or a party in your personal life if you know at least some of the people who will be there.

If you are in a social situation and do not want to spend time with 'John' because you don't like him or he cannot help you with a particular issue, a good set of social skills will allow you to politely convey that you need to spend time with other people at the get together.

See our pages improving self-esteem and building confidence.

4. Advancing Career Prospects

Most worthwhile jobs have a 'people component' and the most lucrative positions often involve a large amount of time spent interacting with employees, media and colleagues.

It is rare that an individual can remain isolated in their office and still excel in their job. Most organisations are looking for individuals with a particular, tactical, skill set: the ability to work well in a team and to influence and motivate people to get things done.

See our pages: Employability Skills and Transferable Skills for more information about the kind of skills that employers are looking for.

5. Increased Overall Happiness

Getting along and understanding people will help to open many personal and career-related doors.

Having the confidence to start a conversation at a work-related conference may lead to a new job offer with a higher salary. A smile and 'hello' in a social situation may lead to a friendship being formed.

See our pages: Personal Presentation and Emotional Intelligence for more.

Characteristics of Social Skills

  • Social skills are goal-directed.
  • Socially skilled behaviours are interrelated in the sense that one person may use more than one kind of behaviour at the same time, for the same goal.
  • Social skills should be appropriate to the situation of communication. Different social skills will be used for professional and personal communication.
  • Social skills can be identified as certain types of behaviour whereby an individual can be judged on how socially skilled they are.
  • Social skills can be taught, practiced and learned.
  • Social skills should be under the cognitive control of the individual - learning them involves learning when to use particular behaviours, as well as what behaviours to use, or how to use them.

Use the characteristics of social skills to think more about what the term, 'Social Skills' means.

The acknowledgement of social skills in this way leads us to think that social skills can indeed be learnt, usually through practice and experience but also taught.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

Develop your Social Skills

As social skills involve effective communication it is useful to further explore the models of communication and understand how effective communication can be encouraged and developed.

We have lots of further information to help with this development, follow the links below for more.

It is generally acknowledged that social skills and character development are more difficult to attain and harder to change when people get older, so the sooner you start, the better.

Take our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment to discover your strengths and weaknesses.

Social Skills - Kid Sense Child Development

What are social skills?

Social skills are the skills we use everyday to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speech, gesture, facial expression and body language. A person has strong social skills if they have the knowledge of how to behave in social situations and understand both written and implied rules when communicating with others. Children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) and Asperger’s have difficulties with social skills.


Why are social skills important?

Social skills are vital in enabling an individual to have and maintain positive interactions with others. Many of these skills are crucial in making and sustaining friendships. Social interactions do not always run smoothly and an individual needs to be able to implement appropriate strategies, such as conflict resolution when difficulties in interactions arise. It is also important for individuals to have ’empathy’ (i.e. being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and recognise their feelings) as it allows them to respond in an understanding and caring way to how others are feeling.


What are the building blocks necessary to develop social skills?
  • Attention and concentration: Sustained effort, doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort long enough to get the task done.
  • Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of language.
  • Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
  • Play skills: Voluntary engagement in self motivated activities that are normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment where the activities may be, but are not necessarily, goal oriented.
  • Pre-language skills: The ways in which we communicate without using words and include things such as gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye-contact.
  • Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
  • Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
  • Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task or activity performance to achieve a well-defined result.


How can you tell if my child has problems with social skills?

If a child has difficulties with social skills they might:

  • Use fleeting eye contact, does not consistently use eye contact or stares at you fixedly.
  • Not be able to take turns when talking to their communication partner.
  • Struggle with using appropriate body language (e.g. stands too close/far to another person).
  • Fail to use polite forms of communication (e.g. saying: please, thank-you, hello and good-bye).
  • Be unable to start and end conversations appropriately.
  • Interrupt others frequently.
  • Be unable to maintain a topic of conversation and provides irrelevant comments during a conversation.
  • Talk ‘at you’ in a conversation as opposed to engaging in a two way conversation ‘with’ you.
  • Not ask appropriate questions.
  • Repeat information in conversation and tend to talk about topics of their own interest (e.g. trains, a favourite TV show/person).
  • Show little or no interest in what the other person has to say.
  • Fail to understand jokes and language, such as sarcasm, idioms and non-literal information (e.g. ‘This place is a pig sty!’).
  • Interpret what you say in a very literal way (e. g. when you say “Can you open the door?” the child “yes” without moving to actually open the door).
  • Talk with unusual speed, stress, rhythm, intonation, pitch and/or tone of voice.
  • Be unable to understand different tones of voice or read facial cues.
  • Fail to ask for clarification if they are confused or if the situation is unclear to them.
  • Struggle to respond appropriately when asked to change their actions.
  • Tend to disclose (excessively) personal information to unfamiliar people or strangers.
  • Appear unaware of others and fail to read other people’s feelings based on their verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Be unable to respond to teasing, anger, failure and disappointment appropriately.
  • Be unable to adjust or modify their language appropriately according to the communication situation.
  • Lack empathy (i.e. is not able to imagine what it is like to be somebody else or in their situation).
  • Lack imagination.
  • Appear self-centred.
  • Fail to understand the consequences of their actions.


What other problems can occur when a child has social skill difficulties?

When a child has social skill difficulties, they might also have difficulties with:

  • Behaviour: The child’s actions, usually in relation to their environment (e.g. a child may engage in behaviour, such as refusing to go to social events including birthday parties or engage in inappropriate behaviour, such as tugging on a peer’s hair or yelling at someone to get their attention).
  • Sensory processing: The child may have trouble attending or focusing and have difficulty interpreting information they receive from the environment.
  • Completing academic work (e.g. the child may misinterpret verbal or written instructions for tasks and/or struggle with imaginative writing).
  • Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of language.
  • Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
  • Articulation: Clarity of speech sounds and spoken language.
  • Fluency: The smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are produced when talking.
  • Voice: The sound that we hear when someone talks which is unique to each person.
  • Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
  • Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.


What can be done to improve social skills?
  • Play with your child to help develop joint attention, turn-taking, shared interests, cooperation and appropriate play with toys.
  • Emotions: Help the child to understand and display their own emotions and to recognise these emotions in other people.
  • Empathy: Help the child to understand and recognise how other people are feeling in particular situations.
  • Social stories: These are stories which are used to teach children specific social skills that they may find difficult to understand or are confusing. The goal of the story is to increase the child’s understanding by describing in detail a specific situation and suggesting an appropriate social response.
  • Social skill groups: These are groups run with the express purpose of mastering social interaction with others.


What activities can help improve social skills?
  • Visuals: Make up a poster of rules to remember when starting a conversation (e.g. using a friendly voice, making eye contact, using appropriate greetings, such as ‘hello’).
  • Role play: Practise playground/party scenarios where the child does not know anybody. Model and create a list of different things you can say:
    • To join others who are playing (e.g. “Can I play too?”).
    • To introduce yourself (e.g. “Hi my name is ….”).
    • To politely negotiate with peers (e.g. “I don’t want that one. Can I have the blue car please?”).
  • Sing songs, such as ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ to help teach a child about different emotions.
  • Masks: Make masks together to help improve eye contact.
  • Turn taking: Play turn taking games (e.g. board games) to encourage a child to say whose turn it is in the game (e.g. “My turn”, “Your turn”).
  • Games: Play board games with the child. Make sure the child is not always the ‘winner’ so that they learn about ‘losing’ in a game and are able to cope better when this happens with their peers.
  • Bean bag conversation: Throw a bean bag around a circle and each child takes a turn to contribute to the conversation. Think of different ways to contribute to the conversation (e.g. ask a question, comment on what has been said, add something related to the topic).
  • Watch and comment: Role play different situations and comment about appropriate and inappropriate attempts of communication (e.g. standing too close or too far from another person, not using appropriate eye contact, interrupting a conversation).


Why should I seek therapy if I notice difficulties with social skills in my child?

Therapeutic intervention to help a child with social skills difficulties is important to:

  • Help a child to engage appropriately with others during play, conversation and in interactions.
  • Help a child to develop friendships at school and when accessing out of school activities (e.g. playing sport, attending a group such as Scouts).
  • Help a child maintain friendships with peers.
  • Help a child to behave appropriately during interactions with familiar people (e.g. parents, siblings, teachers, family friends) and unfamiliar individuals (e.g. adults and children they may need to engage with during excursions and when visiting places, such as the park or swimming pool).
  • Assist a child in developing their awareness of social norms and to master specific social skills (e.g. taking turns in a conversation, using appropriate eye contact, verbal reasoning, understanding figurative language).
  • Develop appropriate social stories to help teach the child about how to respond in specific social situations.
  • Some children require explicit teaching about how to interact and communicate with others as these skills do not come naturally to them.


If left untreated what can difficulties with social skills lead to?

When children have difficulties with social skills, they might also have difficulties with:

  • Making new friends.
  • Maintaining friendships with peers.
  • Communicating effectively with unfamiliar individuals during situations including asking for assistance in a shop, asking for directions if they are lost and negotiating with someone with whom they have had a disagreement.
  • Reading/understanding social situations.
  • Understanding jokes and figurative language during interactions with others, and when watching television shows and movies and reading books.
  • Coping with failure.


 What type of therapy is recommended for social skill difficulties?

If your child has difficulties with social skills, it is recommended they consult a Speech Therapist.

If there are multiple areas of concern (i.e. beyond just social skills) both Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy may well be recommended to address the functional areas of concern. This is the benefit of choosing Kid Sense provides both Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy.

Social skills: what are they and how to develop them

May 22, 2020

Social skills are the skills a person has to successfully interact with others. They allow you to competently conduct a dialogue, improve the quality of communication, and also keep your emotions under control. Many people think that social skills are just about being able to communicate. But this is a misconception. In this article, you can learn in detail about the development, formation and features of social skills. nine0003

Types of social skills

Developed social skills allow a person to control his emotional state and express himself in various areas. A person who is able to develop social skills can successfully lead people, have good persuasive power. The formation of such skills allows you to correctly convey the position, using logic or eloquence at the right time.

Social and communication skills include:

  • presenting oneself and greeting another person; nine0014
  • control of voice, emotions, keeping calm, sincerity;
  • conducting a conversation and presenting oneself in a team;
  • the ability to accept compliments and respond to criticism.

Methods for developing skills

By developing social skills, a person becomes more charismatic, self-confident and calm. He learns to achieve his goal in life, climbs the career ladder. The main methods of forming social skills are as follows:

  1. Getting someone else's opinion. It is impossible to see your behavior from the outside, so in this case it is worth asking for help from another person who will point out mistakes, advantages and disadvantages. It is desirable to take into account the opinion of several people.
  2. Gaining self-confidence. Having completely relaxed in communication, a person becomes more charming and able to maintain an interesting conversation. If you notice that insecurity prevents you from showing social skills, then you need to eradicate this problem. nine0014
  3. Communication with successful people. Social skills can be formed by communicating with people who have managed to achieve great heights in life. When communicating, try to pay attention to how successful people behave. Draw some conclusions for yourself, but avoid imitation. Do not be afraid to make new acquaintances, surround yourself with strong people and, if necessary, ask them for advice.
  4. Practice regularly. Even if you read a lot of smart books and articles, but do not practice, all your skills will come to naught. Try to communicate regularly with people, improving social skills. And the online intensive Wikium "Effective Communication" will help you learn how to interact with people in any situation. nine0014

Additional recommendations

All suggested teaching methods are quite simple. You can supplement them with the following recommendations:

  • develop a sense of empathy towards others;
  • be interested in other people's problems and become an active listener;
  • share your stories and learn to listen to others;
  • travel, walk around the city a lot;
  • develop acting talent; nine0014
  • learn how to properly resolve conflict situations.

All these simple and uncomplicated rules are significant in the development of social skills. But often people are hindered by fear, insecurity, irascibility, arrogance, excessive gullibility. All these behavioral reactions prevent a person from interacting normally with society and building harmonious relationships. Try to look at life more simply, develop talents, and also work on your shortcomings. Then you will become an excellent interlocutor and will be able to prove yourself. nine0003

Social skills of preschoolers - the development of social skills in children

The development of social skills is a necessary point of education. A child with a high degree of socialization will quickly get used to kindergarten, school, any new team; in the future will easily find a job. Social skills have a positive effect on interpersonal relationships - friendship, the ability to cooperate.

Let's figure out what social skills are.

What are social skills and why develop them? nine0007

Social skills - a group of skills, abilities that are formed during the interaction of a person with society and affect the quality of communication with people.

Man is a social being: all our talents and aspirations are realized thanks to other members of the group. Others evaluate our actions, approve or condemn our behavior. It is difficult to reach the pinnacle of self-actualization alone.

That is why social skills are important. They should be developed from early childhood and honed throughout life. nine0003

Social skills are a reflection of the child's emotional intelligence, to which educators and teachers assign an important role in the process of personality development. Without this group of skills, a smart child will not be able to apply the acquired knowledge in practice: it is not enough to create something outstanding, you need to be able to correctly convey thoughts to the public.

Sometimes people mistakenly believe that social skills relate exclusively to the topic of communication, communication. In fact, skills include many multidirectional aspects: an adequate perception of one's own individuality, the ability to empathize, work in a team, etc.

Why do we need social skills?

  1. Regulate the area of ​​interpersonal relationships: the child easily makes new friends, finds like-minded people.
  2. Minimize psychological stress: children with developed social skills quickly adapt, do not feel sad due to changes in external circumstances.
  3. Form adequate self-esteem from childhood, which positively affects life achievements, development in adulthood.
  4. Social skills cannot be separated from building a successful career: the best specialists must not only understand the profession, but also have high emotional intelligence. nine0014

Development of social skills in a child

Social skills need to be developed from preschool age, but older children and even teenagers may well learn to interact with the world.

It is recommended to pay attention to areas of life that bring discomfort to the child, significantly complicate everyday life.

  1. Friends, interesting interlocutors: the kid does not know how to join the team, he prefers to sit in the corner while the others are playing.
  2. Verbal difficulties. The child does not understand the rules of conversation, is poorly versed in the formulas of etiquette (when you need to say hello, say goodbye, offer help). nine0014
  3. Problems with the non-verbal side of communication. Such a baby does not recognize the shades of emotions, it is difficult to understand how others relate to him. Cannot "read" faces and gestures.
  4. Does not know the measure in expressing a point of view: too passive or, conversely, aggressive.
  5. The child bullies classmates (participates in bullying) or is a victim.

In case of severe moral trauma, one should consult a psychologist: for example, school bullying is a complex problem that children are not able to cope with on their own. The involvement of parents and teachers is required. nine0003

In other cases, family members may well be able to help the child develop social skills.

What are the general recommendations?


Be patient

Don't push your child to get things done. Let them take the initiative: for example, do not rush to help during school gatherings, let the baby work on the problem on his own. The same goes for lessons and other activities.

2. Support undertakings

Children's dreams seem trifling to adults, but the initiative turns into a habit over the years and helps to discover new projects, meet people, and experiment. nine0003

3. Criticize the right way

When making a negative comment, remember the golden rule of criticism: you need to analyze the work, highlighting both positive and negative aspects in a polite way. Commenting on the specific actions of the child, and not his personality or appearance - this will lead to problems with self-esteem.

4. The right to choose

It is important for children to feel that their voice is taken into account and influences the course of events. Invite your child to personally choose clothes, books, cartoons. Ask about ideas, plans: “We are going to have a rest together at the weekend. What are your suggestions? nine0003

5. Personal space

Make sure that the baby has a place where he can be alone, take a break from talking. Personal things should not be touched: rearrange without prior discussion, read correspondence with friends, check pockets, etc.

Children, noticing the respectful attitude of adults, quickly begin to pay in the same coin; the atmosphere in the family becomes warm and trusting.

What social skills should be developed in a child? nine0007

Let's dwell on the main qualities and skills, the development of which is worth paying attention to.

1. The ability to ask, accept and give help

Without the ability to ask for help, the child will deprive himself of valuable advice; the lack of the ability to accept help will lead to losses, and the inability to provide help will make the baby self-centered.

  • Let the child help those in need: for example, a lagging classmate.
  • Explain to your child that getting help from friends and teachers is not a shame. nine0014
  • Show by personal example that mutual help enriches experience: tell how you exchange advice with colleagues, friends.

2. The ability to conduct a conversation and get the right information

Being a good conversationalist is difficult, but the skill is honed over time and brings a lot of benefits.

  • Prompt your child for dialogue development options: for example, you can start a conversation with a relevant question, a request for help.
  • Do not leave the child in the role of a silent listener: when discussing pressing issues at home, ask the opinion of the baby. nine0014
  • Support children's public speaking: reports at school, performances, funny stories surrounded by loved ones will add confidence.

3. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognize the emotions of others, put yourself in the place of another person, empathize.

This ability will make the child humane, prudent. How can it be developed?

  • Start by recognizing the child's feelings - it is useless to listen to people if the person does not feel personal experiences. Ask your baby: “How do you feel after a quarrel with friends?”, “Do you want to relax today?” nine0014
  • After conflicts with classmates, ask your child how the children with whom the quarrel may feel now.
  • While watching cartoons, reading books, pay your child's attention to the emotional state of the characters.

4. Ability to work in a team

Many children can easily cope with tasks alone, but this is not a reason to refuse to work in a team. It gives the opportunity to exchange ideas and experience, delegate tasks, achieve goals faster and more efficiently. nine0003

  • If the child does not communicate with members of the team, try to introduce him to another social group: for example, the lack of communication with classmates can be compensated by a circle of interests, where the child will feel calmer.
  • Make the family a friendly team in which the child has his own "duties": for example, do housework, remind parents of upcoming events. Any activity related to the well-being of other family members will do.
  • nine0021

    5. Respect for personal boundaries

    The absence of an obsessive desire to interfere in other people's lives is a valuable skill that helps to win people's sympathy.

    • Respect the child's personal boundaries: do not enter the nursery unannounced, do not rummage through personal belongings and correspondence, if the matter does not concern the life and safety of the baby.
    • If the child violates other people's boundaries (takes toys without permission, asks uncomfortable questions), talk about it in private.

    6. Ability to overcome conflict situations

    It is difficult to imagine our life without conflicts. The task of the child is to learn how to culturally enter into a discussion, defend his point of view, and not be led by the provocations of his interlocutors.

    • Talk about problems calmly, without raising your voice. Do not put pressure on the child with parental authority unnecessarily: the child is a separate person who has the right to an opinion.
    • Do not judge people for views that differ from those of your family but do not affect your well-being. Show your child that the world is very different. nine0014
    • You can demonstrate to children the basics of a civilized dispute, explain what arguments are, etc. It is advisable to teach this child in kindergarten.

    7. Self-confidence

    Stable and adequate self-esteem is a quality that not all adults possess.

    It is formed under the influence of many factors: relationships between parents, the role of the child in the family circle, the characteristics of the environment that surrounded the child in early childhood.

    It is important that the child does not grow up to be either a narcissistic narcissist with fragile self-esteem, or an overly shy person.

    Learn more