Obviously, others may be concerned that a self-helper interested in
gaining social skills will misuse these skills, e.g. taking advantage of
friends or deceiving others. That is a possibility; almost any knowledge
can be used to serve an evil purpose. It is unknown how often newly
acquired social skills are used unethically. But, I'll bet it occurs much
less often than deception by "natural born" smooth talkers.
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Social skills training blossomed in the 1970's. It seems to have
slowed in the late 1980's and 1990's. Inter-gender communication
caught the spotlight but that is more descriptive than skills training.
Researchers concluded that the training was generally beneficial to
certain kinds of people, such as non-dating college students, students
unable to speak up in class, and persons with emotional problems.
Kleinke (1986) cites several studies showing therapy and social skills
training, especially in groups, to be effective. The training does not
help everybody, however. Very little is known about the effects of
written material on socializing. As with assertiveness, we also do not
know much about the long-term effects of the social skills training.
Many of the books about social interaction do not cite research but
some do; they all say about the same things.
The risk of someone using social skills for self-serving purposes is
mentioned above. The rule must be: buyers beware. Trust is discussed
in chapter 7; the best policy is to "Trust a person with caution, until
he/she shows he/she is untrustworthy."
Mental health professionals consider Tannen's two books wonderful
aids to improving conversations (Tannen, 1986, 1990). Another book
by communication specialists (Goodman & Esterly, 1988) is lengthy
and solid (Santrock, Minnett & Campbell, 1994). Several publishers are
producing a variety of communication skills tapes and videos (see New
Harbinger Publishers and Research Press).
Carnegie, D. (1936, 1983). How to win friends and influence
people. New York: Pocket Books. This is a classic but no longer
the best advice.
Carter, J. M. & Wyse, L. (1976). How to be outrageously
successful with women. New York: Ballantine.
Coleman, E. (1972). Making friends with the opposite sex. Los
Angeles: Nash Publishing.
Donaldson, L. (1981). Conversational magic: Key to poise,
popularity and success. West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Co.