Relationship Skills over Social Skills

Relationships teach us about multiple perspectives and provide the experience to show us that there is more than one right way of thinking, feeling, solving a problem and behaving. Through relationship encounters, we see the world through another’s eyes and notice it is not identical to our own. Relationships teach us to think about the world in a relative and not absolute manner. In a relationship our actions cannot be interpreted as right or wrong. Rather, they are meaningful or not depending on how they impact the individuals involved in the relationship. Rather than pushing a button or following a script, relationships require us to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the state of our connection to one another and make ongoing adjustments.
The essential skills of relationship differ from the typical social skills taught in classes or social skills groups. We are accustomed to thinking of social skills as teaching behaviors such as making eye contact, waiting your turn, smiling, asking good questions and similar behaviors. Scientists refer to these as Instrumental Skills and they are mainly about getting what you need and about fitting in. Both types of skills are important, but only Relationship skills lead to the ability to have friends and intimate relationships.
Instrumental skills are applicable to situations in which people typically behave in predictable, scripted ways and when we employ them, we tend to use people like instruments to get our needs met. Relationship skills have a very different purpose. They are used when social contact is an end in itself; to create and deepen connections between people, share excitement and joy, and participate in joint creative efforts. Relationships, like friendships and children’s play encounters occur in a rather unpredictable, non-scripted improvised manner. Flexibility and creative thinking are valued, along with remaining co-ordinated.
We have found that the two types of skills require very different learning methods. This fundamental difference is the reason we developed Relationship Development Intervention.
When we teach instrumental skills we work with memorized scripts, employed in a specific manner to reach a desired endpoint. We teach people to recognize the proper context to perform a particular script, such as a lunchroom, or a supermarket. Instrumental skills are best learned in natural environments, so that you will recognize the context and connect the script with the specific setting. They are best taught through direct instruction, social stories, behavioral shaping and modeling. The partners we choose for learning instrumental skills are typically more competent people. Often we will assign a more capable buddy to serve as a role model. The curriculum for instrumental skills involves learning a set of rules and expecting that everyone will follow them. The progression of learning entails accumulating a large repertoire of discrete scripts for as many settings as possible. Skills are selected based upon the age of the person and the daily settings he must encounter. The reason we teach instrumental skills is to help people learn the relatively unchanging social rules that govern non-emotional interactions. Whether they are happier, experience greater enjoyment, or feel closer to another person is not the point. The main objective is to help the person cope with day-to-day problems and situations that he may face in routine situations.
Relationships do not rely on pre-selected scripts. Actions we choose to take in a relationship encounter depend heavily upon what our partner is doing at that instant. Therefore the right response will change from moment to moment. We seek out relationships to add new ideas, to integrate ideas and to collaborate and co-create. Therefore, relationship encounters are filled with novelty and variation. Because they involve the ongoing introduction of novelty, relationships interactions require constant evaluation and regulation.
We have to make sure that there is not so much variation that the interaction degenerates into confusion and chaos. But, on the other hand, if there is too little novelty and creation we lose the purpose of the encounter. The relationship becomes stilted and boring. Success requires learning to continually monitor and regulate a relationship balance of creation and predictability. It is like an ongoing juggling act, where we wish to add as many balls as possible and at the same time prevent any ball from dropping.
Because of their complexity and need for full attention, relationships skills must first be learned and mastered in simple environments. In RDI, as in typical development, the first relationship coaches should be adults, who act as both guides and participants. They function using a model that noted theorist Lev Vygotsky termed Guided Participation. Initially the best teachers are adults who act as both guides and participants. Gradually, they can lead the child on a path of learning to a point where they can manage more complex environments.
When the child is ready to work with a peer, research again clearly tells us that it is best to find someone who is at the same level of development. More competent children tend to delay the development of regulation and referencing skills that are necessary for relationship competence. They tend to inadvertently do the important evaluation and regulation “work” of the relationship for the more impaired child, leaving him or her in a highly dependent and incompetent position.
Even the best juggler will add too many balls or become distracted for a moment and the same is true with relationships. No matter how skilled we are, relationships are always becoming disconnected and so participants must learn to monitor for breakdowns and quickly effect repairs. They will not do this if more competent partners are taking care of problems for them. Relationship competence requires a careful, systematic layering of skills. They must be taught with increasing complexity carefully added. Each step we take in constructing relationship competence, serves as the scaffolding for the next step in a carefully crafted manner.

This article is an excerpt from the book, “Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children” by Steven Gutstein and Rachelle Sheely. Kingsley, Jessica Publishers; 2002


    I am sharing this testimony for my daughter who suffered autism for 7 years. I am doing this, because I was her mother and caregiver  during her dark days and am very happy to share it so that others can be helped through  DR WILLIAMS HERBAL MEDICINE. It was a tough a battle for her; I was not actually the one who hard autism, but bearing the burden makes me understand what parents whose children and love with autism go through.
    Lesia now 19 and was diagnosed with autism at the age of twelve, for seven years, she fought against her diagnosis. I must admit it was never easy for us as a family; we had to constantly watch her, and answer questions that we couldn’t explain. On several occasions, she asked if she will ever stop having speech delay and get well like her school mates and be the best swimmer she dreamt of becoming. She was a very happy child; and had a ‘normal’ childhood and there was no suggestion that she would later on develop autism. 
    She refused to accept defeat and fought autism. She religiously kept to her medications in spite of their side effects. We all wanted a cure, so that she can chase her dream and live a normal life like every other child. But the more she takes these medications, the more her school grade drop. She couldn’t concentrate and we noticed that her memory was being severely adversely affected. Each time we went back to the hospital, her medicines were changed to a different one. Seems like, each change of drug brings about change in side effects. After about 6 years on   Abilify ,  Geodon  , and other medicines, it seemed the autism started to increase in frequency. I had to make effort to reduce her medicines with plans to eventually stop it all. We found an alternative treatment in homeopathy, which was better than her English drugs. Gradually, I reduced her drugs, and her autism were no longer as frequent as it was as when she was on conventional drugs.
    With our little breakthrough with homeopathy treatment, we made further search for natural cure. Fortunately we saw testimonies about herbal medicines which cure autism. We saw a lot of claims though, contacted them and didn’t get a useful reply. Lucky for us, we finally got a reply from Doctor Williams, he directed us to his blog where we saw a lot of information about his herbal medicine . Without further delay I made a purchase for her, I switched her over to it. We had great breakthrough, that in 3 weeks, her autism reduced. After 1 months as Doctor Williams promised , all autism symptoms stopped. It was like a miracle for us. since all this days now Lesia became autism free. Her story is quite lengthy, I hope it also help someone out there.for more information you can email Dr Williams on  


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Parent Child Relationship in Autism

RDI in school

A few thoughts on Dynamic intelligence