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5 techniques to train your social skills

5 techniques to train your social skills

January 29, 2023

The notion of social skills training has evolved over time . In the beginning it was associated with interventions in people with some severe mental disorder, and although this method is still used for such cases, after the emergence of social learning theories, it became an instrument to improve the skills of people in their relationships.

Like any other skill, these communication skills can be learned, practiced and, therefore, considerably improved; without the need that the person must suffer from any type of disorder to be able to benefit from them.

Related article: "14 main social skills to succeed in life"

Social skills: why are they important?

There is no unique and concrete description of what social skills are, however this concept can be explained as the set of behaviors and actions acquired in a natural way, capable of being learned and exercised, which take place in interpersonal contexts; taking into consideration the social norms of this and with the aim of obtaining social support or self-reinforcement.

The importance of social skills is given by its relationship with a better psychosocial adjustment of the person , thus avoiding isolation, lack of affection and possible associated affective disorders.

The usefulness of social skills in the daily life of the person is reflected in the following aspects:

  • Reduce levels of stress and anxiety in front of some social circumstances
  • Act as reinforcement in contexts of interaction with other people
  • Increase reinforcement by people valuable to the person
  • Protect and favor interpersonal relationships
  • Favors the increase of self-esteem

Properties of social skills training

As indicated in the previous point, social skills are behaviors learned throughout the life of the person, so it is possible to train them through appropriate learning experiences.

The particular basis or trait of this training consists in the observation of a third party who performs the objective behavior in an appropriate manner, to later repeat, correct possible errors and gradually improve. For this, the person who tries to learn receives a reinforcement, both positive and negative, from the professional.

The dynamic consists of repeating and practicing the behavior or behavior sought in the greatest number of situations, in the most varied and real way possible.

The main features of social skills training are:

  • Increase and development of the behavior catalog that the person has
  • Participation and active cooperation of the people involved in the training
  • Strategies understood as a learning for the person, not as a therapy.
  • These are exercises that can be carried out in groups, which favors their effectiveness.

The list of own advantages and common to the different types of training, which have made them a reference intervention are:

  • Briefness of the duration of the intervention.
  • The simplicity of the techniques
  • Plasticity and flexibility to adjust to the person and their needs
  • Immediate positive effects
  • Structured, systematized and clear organization
  • System of action and learning similar to that of obtaining other skills

Techniques for the training of social skills

Psychology has developed a series of techniques aimed at improving the skills of the person in terms of their relationship with others. These techniques, explained below, should not be interpreted as serial steps that follow a specific order, but rather as independent elements that allow us to lengthen, extend or repeat them.

These elements are specified in six different techniques. They are the following.

1. Modeling

In this first technique, a person equipped with the skills to be learned performs a series of behaviors in an appropriate manner , so that the apprentice or apprentices imitate them.

The models can perform the behaviors live, or through recordings. The main requirement of the model for the technique to be effective is that it be as similar as possible to the observer. So much for age, gender, reference group, etc.

An important point to keep in mind is that the model does not conduct the behavior in an excessively skillful or expert manner, since it can demotivate the observer. The person who acts as an example to follow should express himself in an affable way and close to the apprentice. The mood of the observer is compensated with positive reinforcements.

Likewise, the effectiveness of the technique increases when the exposed situation is reproduced with the greatest possible clarity and precision, and always in a manner in which the difficulty of it is graduated, from least to greatest.

It is necessary for the viewer to understand that his obligation is to imitate the model, focusing the interest on the behavior of the model, analyzing it and then exercising and rehearsing that behavior.

2. Behavioral test

The behavioral test is the moment in which the person must carry out the actions that have previously been shown by the model. These tests can be:

  • Real : conduct is carried out in real or simulated contexts.
  • Concealed : the behavior is carried out by the imagination in the training place.

These two ways of proceeding are not exclusive, the person can first do the test in a disguised way and, once practiced enough, he goes on to the real test.

As regards the intervention of the participants, the monitor can act as an interlocutor in order to control the situation . In the case that a group intervention is being carried out, the rest of the participants can represent auxiliary tasks or representations.

3. Feedback

Behavior testing is essential after a period of feedback . This feedback is based on the provision of information to the person about how he has carried out the target behaviors, being this as specific and concrete as possible.

It is an indispensable requirement to reinforce what the person has done correctly, how to communicate in what things he should improve; Guiding about how you can improve.

For greater integration of information, it is essential that this feedback be immediate or even simultaneous to the person's performance.

4. Reinforcement

In these cases, Positive reinforcement consists in praising and praising the positive aspects of the apprentice's performance , this being the best way for behavior to be repeated in the future. An important point to keep in mind is that such reinforcements must be valuable and desired by the person.

Two types of reinforcements can be carried out:

  • Material reinforcement , this reinforcement refers to tangible rewards
  • Social reinforcement in the form of compliments and approvals.

Once the reinforcements have been administered in a continuous manner, the intermittent reinforcement of the behavior is passed. The goal of this type of reinforcement is to strengthen the behavior and maintain it in the long term.

5. Generalization

The primary purpose of all this training is not for the person to perform the behavior only in the test space , but that it is able to carry out in real life situations.

Bearing this in mind, the execution of the behavior or behaviors must be extrapolated to all contexts or circumstances in which said behavior is useful for the person.

Improve Your Social Skills in Under 30 Minutes, with Ramit Sethi (January 2023).

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