5 Techniques To Train Your Social Skills

We explain several practical ways to gain self-confidence and communication.

The notion of social skills training has evolved over time. In its beginnings, it was associated with interventions in people with a  severe mental disorder, and although this method is still used for such cases, after the appearance 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 greatly improved; without the need for the person to suffer from any type of disorder in order to benefit from them.

Related article: “14 main social skills to be successful in life”

Social skills: why are they important?

There is no single and specific 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, that take place in interpersonal contexts; taking into consideration the social norms of this and with the aim of achieving social support or self-reinforcement.

The importance of social skills is given by their 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:

  • They reduce the levels of stress and anxiety in the face of some social circumstances
  • They act as reinforcement in contexts of interaction with other people
  • Increase reinforcement by people of value to the person
  • They protect and promote interpersonal relationships
  • Favors the increase of self-esteem

Properties of social skills training

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

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

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

The main characteristics of social skills training are:

  • Increase and development of the catalog of behaviors that the person possesses
  • Active participation and cooperation of the people involved in the training
  • Strategies understood as learning for the person, not as therapy.
  • They are exercises that can be done in a group, which favors their effectiveness.

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

  • Shortness 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 training social skills

From psychology, a series of techniques have been developed 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, expand or repeat them.

These elements are specified in six different techniques. They are as follows.

1. Modeling

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

The models can exercise the behaviors live, or through recordings. The main requirement of the model for the technique to be effective is that it be as close as possible to the observer. Both by age, gender, reference group, etc.

An important point to keep in mind is that the model does not perform the behavior in an excessively skillful or expert way, since it can demotivate the observer. The person who acts as an example to follow must express himself in a friendly and close way to the learner. 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 clarity and precision possible, and always in a way that graduates, from least to greatest, its difficulty.

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

2. Behavioral testing

The behavioral rehearsal 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 : the behavior is carried out in real or simulated contexts.
  • Covert : the behavior is carried out through imagination in the training place.

These two ways of proceeding are not exclusive, the person can first do the test covertly and, once practiced enough, go to the real test.

Regarding the intervention of the participants, the monitor can act as an interlocutor with the aim of controlling 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

After the behavioral rehearsal, it is essential that there be a period of feedback. This feedback is based on the provision of information to the person on how they have executed the target behaviors, being as specific and concrete as possible.

It is an indispensable requirement both to reinforce what the person has done correctly, how to communicate in what things they should improve; giving guidance on how you can improve.

For a greater integration of the information, it is essential that this feedback is immediate or even simultaneous to the action of the person.

4. Reinforcement

In these cases, positive reinforcement consists of praising and praising the positive aspects of the learner’s performance, this being the best way for the 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 reinforcement can be carried out:

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

Once the reinforcements have been administered continuously, they move on to intermittent reinforcement of the behavior. 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 that the person performs the behavior only in the test space, but that it is capable of being carried out in real life situations.

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

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