We all have hundreds, perhaps thousands of skills: communication
skills, leadership skills, work skills, self-help skills, study skills, time
management skills, sports and recreation skills, decision-making skills,
conflict-resolution skills, reasoning skills and lots of others. Although
aptitude for learning these many skills varies greatly, each of us must
learn every skill we acquire. No one is born with them. Unfortunately,
some people falsely believe they can't learn a particular skill, e.g. "I'm
too old (or young) to learn to date." Other people believe they have
already mastered a skill, e.g. I've heard hundreds of psychology
students say, "Oh, I know how to be empathic," when, in reality, they
(and all of us) could learn to be much more effective. The truth is that
each of us could probably learn much more about each of these skills.
The learning continues throughout old age. Thus, learning the skills we
need isn't just spending an hour skimming a long, marginally
interesting chapter; it is a life-time of learning the basics and
sharpening useful skills.
Knowledge and skills are the mark of an effective, sophisticated,
educated, capable, responsible person. The more skills you have, the
better (so long as you are moral). You can simply select one of the
skills below that you want to improve and get to work on it. Or, you
can first read more about your major problem (see chapters 3 to 10);
those chapters will help you decide which skills will benefit you the
most. Many books elaborate on each of the following skills but only a
few books cover a wide range of communication methods (McKay, et.
al., 1996; Bolton, 1979; McKay, Davis & Fanning, 1983). Dorothy Rich
(1991) provides exercises for teaching 4 to 12-year-olds a variety of
skills, such as confidence, perseverance, empathy, problem-solving
ability, etc. Elgin (1996) helps adults talk to kids.
Role-Playing and Behavior Rehearsal
One of the best ways of learning how to handle a situation is to
practice with a friend. The two of you pretend to be interacting in the
troublesome situation. You try out different approaches and perfect
your comments. Your helper shows you several ways the person
(whoever he/she is pretending to be) might react to your statements.
The friend also makes suggestions and gives encouragement. Your
skill at handling almost any interaction could be improved using this