Lack Of Social Skills In Adults: Its Effects And How To Deal With It

Lack of social skills is a more common problem than it seems in adults.

Many people in adulthood suffer from problems in their social skills , either to a greater or lesser extent.

We are going to try to explain the main consequences that this deficit can generate in these people, as well as some of the most common techniques that are used to achieve an improvement in these capacities and thus correct the repercussions they have on their day-to-day life.

The importance of social skills

In order to address the problem of the lack of social skills in adults, it is essential that we first know what exactly this concept refers to in order to know where its importance lies and the problems involved in suffering from a deficit in this area.

Social skills, or social competencies, refer to all those capacities of an individual that enable and facilitate the power to interact with their peers and communicate properly in different contexts, knowing how to make use of social rules. Ultimately, thanks to these skills, the person will be able to socialize with others in a correct and satisfactory way for both parties.

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Simply attending to this brief definition, we can get an idea of ​​the consequences that a lack of social skills can have in adults since their possibilities of interaction with other people would be diminished; therefore, they would have difficulties in their way of communicating with others, with the negative results that this would have on the subject.

If we wonder what some of the social skills may be, we can see some concrete examples. Active listening would be one of the most common. Also, the simple fact of knowing the proper way to start, maintain and end a conversation, according to social rules. Introducing yourself or others, asking questions, or thanking something would be too.

Some more complex ones, the lack of which can also represent a lack of social skills in adults, would be asking for forgiveness, asking for a favor, trying to persuade someone, giving an opinion on an event, explaining the instructions to carry out a certain task, expressing what they feel, empathizing with others, ask permission, joke or complain.

These are just a few examples. We can intuit, therefore, that the lack of social skills in adults can seriously limit the possibilities of interaction of a person, which can have serious repercussions in their daily life.

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Causes of Lack of Social Skills in Adults

Authors like Gresham have tried to investigate the causes behind the lack of social skills in adults. In his 1998 study, he talks about possible origins of a very diverse nature. One of them would be the consumption of substances, such as alcohol, which could have a physical and psychological effect on the person.

Even said alcohol addiction could affect not only the person himself but also his children, in the case of pregnant women, being able to give birth to children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In any case, the abuse of this substance represents one of the possible causes of a lack of social skills in adults.

But this problem could also be generated by some psychopathology, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People who suffer from it, especially during adolescence, can be rejected by their peers. Likewise, people with autism spectrum disorder may also see their way of communicating and interacting with other individuals altered.

Other psychopathologies that can also represent a source for the lack of social skills in adults are depression and generalized anxiety, precisely because due to these ailments, these individuals may see reduced the occasions in which they can communicate with other subjects, and when Such occasions occur, they may not be in the right conditions to interact properly.

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Consequences of social skills deficits in adulthood

We have already looked at some of the possible causes of poor social skills in adults. Now we must talk about the consequences of this deficit. We are going to list some of the most important ones.

1. Self-esteem problems

It is clear that if a person is deprived of their ability to socialize, it will negatively affect them that will have repercussions, among other things, on their own self-esteem. Not being able to communicate adequately with others, even at very basic levels, can cause the subject to evaluate himself negatively, which can also create a vicious circle by making the possibilities of interaction even more difficult.

This would occur because the individual does not want to face situations that have generated discomfort and poor self-perception again. Therefore, one of the most important consequences that can occur due to a lack of social skills in adults is problems related to low self-esteem.

2. Anxiety and depression

We have already seen that pathologies such as anxiety and depression can lead to difficulties in social skills. But in addition to causes, they can also be a consequence of these. And it is that conflicts and uncomfortable situations generated as a result of inappropriate interactions can forge a feeling of continued sadness in the individual, in addition to anxiety symptoms when thinking about past and future interactions.

Therefore, the lack of social skills in adults can lead to conditions that could be related to depression and/or anxiety, which is yet another reason to give this issue the importance it deserves.

3. Inability to resolve conflicts

Going to more specific situations that can also be a consequence of this problem, we could find the example of the inability to resolve conflicts. To a greater or lesser extent, conflicts are a routine part of human interactions. Therefore, the lack of social skills in adults can mean that a person is not able to cope with these common situations.

In this sense, no matter how small, a conflict could represent a scenario that would overwhelm the individual, feeling unable to confront it, much less resolve it. In turn, this could cause stress to the person and even lead to the anxiety-depressive symptoms that we saw in the previous point.

4. Rejection of others

Not all the consequences are generated in the person who has this deficit in social skills. This situation can also have repercussions on the individuals around you, who may prefer to avoid interactions with them, knowing that you have problems behaving in a socially accepted way.

This perception could be harmful to the subject’s self-esteem, as we have already seen, and lead to symptomatology compatible with that anxiety or depression of which we spoke.

How to overcome these problems?

Once the problem of the lack of social skills in adults has been analyzed, the question to ask is whether this situation can be solved in some way. As in almost all cases, when we talk about psychological disorders, it is essential to carry out a personalized evaluation of the case, a task that will correspond to the professional psychologist in charge of it.

However, in general terms, it can be said that social skills can be improved, at least partially, thanks to different techniques and forms of cognitive-behavioral training.

1. Modeling technique

One of them would be modeling, by which a person who is assumed to be an expert in the use of social skills shows the person suffering from the deficit how they should behave in different social situations that occur on a daily basis. In this way, having a clear model, you can compare with your own way of acting and consciously modify your behavior.

2. Behavioral practices

But one’s own observation of others might not be enough to solve the lack of social skills in adults. Therefore, another widely used technique is precisely practice. To do this, the therapist can propose a series of interactions, starting with some very simple ones, in which the person has to behave in a certain way.

These scenarios can be simulated, as in a role-playing game or real, visiting the places where these interactions can occur naturally, such as a shop.

3. Desensitization

If one of the causes of the lack of social skills in adults is the anxiety that these situations provoke in the person, it may be necessary to resort to techniques such as desensitization to reduce the physiological activation that is generating in them.



    • Bernal, AO (1990). Social skills and their training; a necessarily psychosocial approach. Psicothema.
    • Del Prette, A., Del Prette, ZAP (2013). Effective social skills training programs based on experiential methods. Notes of Psychology.
    • Gresham, FM (1998). Social skills training: Should we raze, remodel, or rebuild? Behavioral Disorders.
    • Iruarrizaga, I., Gómez-Segura, J., Criado, T., Zuazo, M., Sastre, E. (1999). Anxiety reduction through social skills training. Electronic magazine of Motivation and Emotion.
    • main Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

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