What are social skills? Are they simply tools used for maintaining some sort of social status among our peers, or are they more? What do social skills mean in terms of animal survival?
If you look at the world of animal survival, you see a trend of biology-based success received from generations of evolutionary adaptations. Each species is born into the environment that its ancestors have adapted to, and its survival is contingent on its genetic biological traits; e.g. a chameleon’s ability to blend into avoid predators.
But what type of environment is a human born into?
From birth, a child is cast into the world of a specific environment: the culture created by other human beings. Unlike a desert horned lizard, whose biological features are predetermined to understand the environment and desert “culture” it’s born into (ability to withstand hot temperatures, knowledge to prey on red harvester ants, etc.), the human child’s biological features are irrelevant to the demands of the culture it’s born into.
Survival techniques must be learned, and surviving is no longer as simple as attaining (taking) shelter and food; human survival is about navigating the social waters of our world. Food and shelter are necessary, but attaining these and more rely on the social activity of the human.
The immediate survival technique is learning a common language. In order for initial survival to take place, the human being must communicate with others and understand the gains of interacting with other humans. Language is needed to begin education, where further skills are gained for future use. Then social survival skills develop into a more subjective and complex array of social roles, cues, morals, laws and activities that are necessary to compete and cooperate with other humans. This dance of social navigating leads to the eventual rewards of such skills, i.e., charisma and knowledge to get a job which leads to money, which leads to buying food and shelter.
These skills are not biological, and there must be a constant effort to maintain these skills in order to ensure further success/survival in the human social world. Along with maintaining these skills, a human must be ready to adapt social skills/knowledge because society is constantly changing; failure to adapt may lead to loss of survival in the social world.
The human social environment is a learned one, where biological traits become more and more irrelevant as society progresses. It is because of this culturally-created environment that we must treat social skills as survival techniques that are necessary for success among humans.