Some Facts Psychologists Know About… 


Rewarding and enjoyable communication between people is one of the most important components of life. Throughout each day most people are exposed to a wide variety of interpersonal situations. On campus students interact with their peers, professors, coaches, and supervisors. In order to meet the needs of everyday living it is necessary to deal with bank tellers, cashiers at shops, the registrar, financial aide officers, doctors, and the mailperson. Skills that enhance developing and maintaining relationships are also important, as well as our more intimate relationships with significant others, partners, close friends, and family. In each of the aforementioned situations, adequate social skills make life easier.

What are social skills?

  • Person to person communication that involves giving, receiving, and interpreting messages.

  • They are primarily developed through learning. In addition to the goals and messages a person wishes to convey, the interaction will depend upon the particular situation he/she is in, as well as aspects of his/her personality, past experiences, what he/she sees in the other person and the consequent impression arrived at.

  • Includes detailed verbal (semantic content of speech, the words and sentences) and nonverbal or paraverbal behavior (posture, use of eyes, tone of voice, and facial expressions).

  • Influenced by the person’s culture and the particular social group he/she belongs to.

  • Increases with social reinforcement from others. Such rewards might include being pleased, intrigued, calmed, or motivated in the presence of others, which usually results in increased self-esteem and worth.

  • Are mutually interactive in nature, and require appropriate timing and reciprocity of specific behaviors.

  • Reflect environmental factors that include age, sex, and status of the other person.


Social Skills Difficulties

  • Developing appropriate social behavior may be impaired for various reason such as:

  1. Inappropriate or lack of adequate models

  2. Failure to be provided with learning opportunities

  3. Periods of emotional disturbances that interfere with or impair social skills

  • A failure to learn adequate social skills can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, rejection, and poor self-esteem. Psychological problems, that can be both the cause and effect, such as depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunctions, aggression, and suicidal attempts are common.

  • The severity of the social impairment varies more from person to person than from one situation to the next. In one person, the problems may be poor eye contact, with another, it may include every aspect of verbal and nonverbal behavior. These problems are usually seen in most or all social situations.


Typical Social Skills Training Methods

  • Role-playing - after receiving verbal instruction by a role model, you act out brief real-life situations you have encountered in your own environment.

  • Warm-up Exercises - this technique is designed to allow you to exercise and practice the different aspects of behavior being trained in the session but they do not usually include real-life situations.

  • Modeling - the trainer is used as a model in hopes of demonstrating appropriate behavior for you .

  • Homework Assignments - gives you an opportunity to try out newly learned behavior in real-life situations you encounter which are likely to produce rewarding consequences.

  • Instruction - you are taught different behaviors in detail and you learn the importance of their use in social situations.

  • Reinforcement - skills that you have learned through verbal instruction and modeling are pleasantly shaped through reinforcement.

Your Counseling Service: Timely, confidential, and professional assistance is available at the University Psychological Services Center (8:00am – 5:00pm, M-F) for UC students located at 316 Dyer Hall. Phone (513-556-0648) or stop in for a no-charge screening interview.

Web Resources: The best psychology sites with valuable information and links to hundreds of other sites on the World Wide Web are Psych Central by Dr. John Grohol and Internet Mental Health In addition, you may find it useful to visit UC's Student Organization and Activities web site.

This fact sheet is provided as a service by the University of Cincinnati Psychological Services Center and the Division of Student Affairs and Services. This fact sheet was prepared by Dr. Kellie Warren and the professional staff of the Psychological Services Center. Please contact our office (513-556-0648) if you would like additional copies.

CLICK HERE for PDF printable version.                                                      © 1997-2004 Psychological Services Center

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