As Jason approached the bus stop, he watched the interactions among his friends before joining in himself. This important social skill is known as greeting ability. Observing others who are socializing allows a person to assess the nature of the conversation, evaluate the type of emotions present, and plan a greeting (both verbal and non-verbal) that will fit the dynamics of the situation.

Many related verbal and non-verbal social skills flow from this important ability.

Here are some strategies to help students develop their greeting skills.

Helpful Hints

  • Provide students with opportunities to practice reading non-verbal behaviors (expressions, body language, etc.) of individuals or groups they want to approach.   
  • Provide guidelines to help students know when it is appropriate to greet others. Emphasize recognizing patterns of behavior, and paying attention to key details (saliency determination). Encourage students to think ahead before jumping into an interaction (response inhibition) by asking themselves questions such as:
  • Have I have ever interacted with this person before?
    How did that go?
    What is he/she doing now?
    Can I add to the activity?
    Will I be a distraction?
    Is he/she happy, sad, angry, anxious?
    Can I help?

    Make sure the student knows that there are times when it is appropriate to interrupt others (e.g., during an emergency).  

  • Help students learn that approaching a group of student peers is complicated by the fact that a hierarchy exists within any group; all individuals within a peer group do not all hold the same status. When students approach a group situation, encourage them to ask questions such as:
  • Which peer group do I approach?
    Do I greet the group as a whole?
    Do I greet an individual who will help me get into the group?

    Enhance the likelihood that a student’s initiations with a peer or peer group will be successful by setting up structured opportunities in the classroom. For example, have the student lead others in a small group activity that focuses on one of his interest or affinity areas.  

  • Offer suggestions to the student to help initiate verbal interactions. Suggestions may be explicit (e.g., “Go to Sarah and ask, ‘May I work on the painting project with you?'”), or general (e.g., “When working on the project today, compliment other members of the group on their work”).  
  • Initiating social interactions involves being able to select topics of conversation and use the language of your peer group. Help students develop their verbal pragmatic skills in these areas.