Difference between Communication and Social/People Skills?

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Rocket123
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30 Apr 2013, 12:21 pm

I have worked in a variety of high tech product development positions (including business analyst, project manager, product manager) for many years.

They say (whoever they are) that these positions require good Communication Skills.

Up until recently (that is, when I first figured out I had Aspergers), I had equated good communication skills with the ability to clearly and concisely (without ambiguity) describe what needs to be done (defined, built, tested, released) either in verbal or written format.

I always took pride in my super-analytical abilities and being able to track things at a detailed level and write exceptionally detailed documentation (emails, specifications, meeting minutes, etc.).

When I was diagnosed with Aspergers, the Psychologist indicated that some of my “occupational difficulties” were “due to being overly-detailed and literal”. I actually thought that being overly detailed oriented was a good thing as “the devil is always in the details”. I thought being literal was critical (as precision was necessary to remove ambiguity).

Now, I am wondering. When people say “Communication Skills” do they really mean “Social/People Skills”? And, are “People Skills” and “Social Skills” the same thing?



merkurialgirl
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30 Apr 2013, 12:56 pm

Rocket123 wrote:
I have worked in a variety of high tech product development positions (including business analyst, project manager, product manager) for many years.

They say (whoever they are) that these positions require good Communication Skills.

Up until recently (that is, when I first figured out I had Aspergers), I had equated good communication skills with the ability to clearly and concisely (without ambiguity) describe what needs to be done (defined, built, tested, released) either in verbal or written format.

I always took pride in my super-analytical abilities and being able to track things at a detailed level and write exceptionally detailed documentation (emails, specifications, meeting minutes, etc.).

When I was diagnosed with Aspergers, the Psychologist indicated that some of my “occupational difficulties” were “due to being overly-detailed and literal”. I actually thought that being overly detailed oriented was a good thing as “the devil is always in the details”. I thought being literal was critical (as precision was necessary to remove ambiguity).

Now, I am wondering. When people say “Communication Skills” do they really mean “Social/People Skills”? And, are “People Skills” and “Social Skills” the same thing?


There's a lot of overlap, I think. Communication isn't just about saying what you mean, it's about expressing and understanding intent, which is often done in a nonverbal or nonliteral way. Being able to interpret those social sublanguages can make a massive difference with your work as well as in your personal life.

Here's one way being overly literal can make things difficult:

My son is told he's not allowed to call his sister stupid. So he calls her an idiot instead. When I get angry at him about this, he tells me "But I didn't call her stupid!". My son is not an Aspie. He knows that I meant he isn't to insult his sister's intelligence--however, he's being deliberately obtuse in an effort to break the rules and push my buttons without getting in trouble.

Adult NTs do this sometimes, as well, when they're angry or don't want to obey instructions even though they are socially required to. By taking instructions TOO literally (even though they understand the actual intent), they are raising a little mini-rebellion against those instructions and the person who gave them.

So, to an untrained eye, autistic hyperliteralism can be misunderstood as belligerence, or being 'deliberately difficult'. This is a big problem for Aspie children--their natural behavior can sometimes mimic misbehavior.



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30 Apr 2013, 1:05 pm

-People skills I would define as akin to diplomacy (knowing what/when to say something as well as how).

-Social skills I would define as People skills, but in a group, with a higher level of being able to read the flow of conversation between persons (I'd say body language is more important here as well).

-Communication I would define as relaying information and feedback in the appropriate time and designed for the appropriate audience.

The three combine together for social interaction. The hardest part of communication for me in particular is trying to "dumb" down the language so to speak, since the audience likely doesn't have a college reading level (microsoft word has a handy feature for determining reading levels of documents, thankfully), and still get the information without excess words at a professional level.


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StereoLake
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30 Apr 2013, 1:49 pm

The way I see it is that "communication skills" is an umbrella term for expressive and receptive language, i.e., things you say and hear, and body language, which means facial expressions, that kind of thing, and your own use of gestures to regulate conversation.

Typically Aspies can have good written expressive and receptive language, but in an informal conversation, they may be not so good, because of the deficits in gestures, not understanding metaphors, humour, unusual prosody, etc.

I think it's plausible that you can have what is considered good "communication skill" in your field, because in your own words “the devil is always in the details”, even though your overall social skills might be less than good.



Rocket123
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30 Apr 2013, 2:37 pm

StereoLake wrote:
The way I see it is that "communication skills" is an umbrella term for expressive and receptive language, i.e., things you say and hear, and body language, which means facial expressions, that kind of thing, and your own use of gestures to regulate conversation.

Typically Aspies can have good written expressive and receptive language, but in an informal conversation, they may be not so good, because of the deficits in gestures, not understanding metaphors, humour, unusual prosody, etc.

I think it's plausible that you can have what is considered good "communication skill" in your field, because in your own words “the devil is always in the details”, even though your overall social skills might be less than good.


StereoLake Thanks for your reply.

This suggests that Aspies can have good “communication skills” within a particular context (e.g. our own field). Even though, they may have terrible “communication skills” outside of that context.

Do you believe the same apply to “social skills” and “people skills”? That Aspies can have good skills in certain contexts (e.g. with certain audiences)? Just curious.



StereoLake
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30 Apr 2013, 3:10 pm

I think that someone may have broadly the same deficits in non-verbal communication all the time, but that with the "specialist subject", they are sort of masked. Partly it's because of the confidence that one has when speaking in one's own subject, partly because they are more than made up for by the tendency to overstate, or be verbose.


Your post struck a chord with me, because I can speak with others in a professional capacity with perfect confidence - where I'm expecting concise answers - but as soon as the conversation turns "social" - what I call flowery language - I just don't know how to respond. Similarly, I would not make a good negotiator or sales person because I think to be good at it you need to be able to read between the lines and really see what's in a persons face.



kabouter
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30 Apr 2013, 6:24 pm

Interesting questions.

"Communication skills" are about transfering information. The context is generally more formal, the audience interested in finding out what you have to say. And your own confidence in your subject area, make it a fairly simple situation (after you have gotten over the fright of presenting in front of your peers).

I think that for us aspies people and social skills are far more nebulous, multi-layered and difficult. We don't seem to be good at reading peoples body language, and an be very unsure of ourselves, or just get if wrong. This is not good for our self-confidence, and lead to a downward spiral (I absolutely cringe when I remember what I was like at some parties in my 20's) These are far more complex situations.

So, we can have great communication skills, but suck at people and social skills


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30 Apr 2013, 7:17 pm

Too much stuff in this thread to read now, but I just want to say that people have told me that I am an excellent communicator. However, I don't think people generally consider me as having good "social skills", whatever that means. I'm not very polite, interrupt in conversations a lot, am not mindful of how others perceive my behaviour, don't typically read body language well, etc.


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Verdandi
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30 Apr 2013, 7:35 pm

merkurialgirl wrote:
So, to an untrained eye, autistic hyperliteralism can be misunderstood as belligerence, or being 'deliberately difficult'. This is a big problem for Aspie children--their natural behavior can sometimes mimic misbehavior.


I appreciate this explanation. It clarifies for me why people sometimes react to me in certain ways. For some reason, while I understood everything else you said about literalness, this part escaped me to some extent.



WestBender84
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19 May 2013, 8:17 pm

Social skills are knowing how to communicate in a manner most comfortable and appealing to your audience. Otherwise, you may communicate extremely well but be very offensive / seemingly lack social skills.

For example, the statement, "I hate everyone equally," communicates very precisely but is bereft of those redeeming social values of which social skills are comprised.


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