Relationship Skills

Students understand that caring and respect — including the virtues of compassion, kindness, benevolence, altruism, charity, generosity, sharing, inclusion, and forgiveness — are at the heart of ethics. They believe that the well-being and dignity of all people is important simply because they are fellow human beings, and they treat every individual with respect, judging them on their character and ability without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, political ideology, gender, age, or other physical or personal characteristics.

Key Beliefs:
  • I show care and concern for others.
  • I am kind and considerate even when others are not.
  • I can find a way to help others.
  • I am willing to show mercy and forgiveness.
  • I will treat others the way I want to be treated.
  • It is important to treat everyone with respect, even if I feel they don’t deserve it.
  • I need to treat everyone the same by accepting their differences, whether they are my friends or people I don’t know very well.
  • I must respect the personal space of others and keep my hands to myself.
  • It is important for people to be included.
  • Explain and illustrate how it is possible to treat everyone with respect, specifically when you are reading a story or having a discussion related to academic content.
  • Practice courteous communication for email, phone, and in-person interactions.
  • Role–play some typical situations in which disrespectful behavior leads to hostility and maybe even violence. Then, change one of the disrespectful actions into one of respect to demonstrate how the outcome is altered.
  • Use examples from current events or literature to demonstrate the effects of bullying and discuss what can be done to strive to create a culture of kindness and respect.
  • Brainstorm ways to make your school environment more respectful. Create a list of recommendations and place them in your school newspaper or on a poster.
  • Develop a list of dos and don’ts for being a respectful person. What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines? What happens when they don’t? In what ways do respectful and disrespectful behavior affect our school and community?
  • Bring in articles from newspapers and magazines describing situations in which respect or disrespect are issues. Reflect on who is acting respectfully in these situations, and then discuss who is acting disrespectfully. Using the articles as evidence, teach the class about the consequences of disrespectful and respectful behaviors.
  • Bullies often try to make people ‘respect’ them. Is this really respect, or is it fear? What is the difference? How are bullying and violent behavior an act of disrespect?
  • Identify three things you could do to be a more respectful person. Consideration should be given as to how respectful behavior would affect your relationship with others.
  • Be engaged in service–based projects.
  • Write a thank-you note to someone in your community who did something very caring.
  • Write about a real or imagined experience in which they performed a random act of caring and the results it produced.
  • Develop a list of dos and don’ts for caring behavior. What happens when people live in accordance with these guidelines? What happens when they don’t? In what ways do caring and uncaring behavior affect our school?
  • Brainstorm ways to make the school environment more caring. Create a list of recommendations and then place it in the school newspaper or on a poster.
  • Create two headings: Caring and Uncaring. List examples underneath each heading. Then discuss what kinds of efforts could be taken to move all of the items from the Uncaring column into the Caring column.
  • Write a critique of an uncaring character from a story they have read, suggesting how he or she could have been a more caring person.

8 Social Skills Students Need (And How to Teach Them Step by Step!)

Here are eight key social skills that all students need to be successful. Consider working on one or two skills with your class each week. Start by gathering students together and talking about the skill. For example, ask: Why is listening attentively important? What does it look like when a person is listening? How do we know? Work together to list the steps for each skill or behavior on chart paper or a whiteboard.

Social Skill: How to Listen Attentively

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person who is talking and remain quiet.
  • Wait until the person is finished talking before you speak.
  • Show that you heard the speaker by nodding your head and using positive phrases, such as “Okay” or “That’s interesting.”

Classroom Activity:  Invite students to tell each other jokes to practice active listening. Gather joke books from your school library or send students online to Aha Jokes to find their favorite funnies to share with their friends. Have students work in small groups taking turns in the roles of speaker and active listeners. Older students can practice sharing opinions on class reading or plans for college or career.

Social Skill: How to Greet Others

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Use a pleasant voice.
  • Say, “Hi” or “Hello.”

Classroom Activity:  Challenge students to come up with 25 or more possible greetings they can use with each other, with you, or with a classroom guest. Include greetings in different languages. Each morning, go around the room and have each student offer a greeting to the class.

Social Skill: Following Instructions

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Say okay.
  • Do what you’ve been asked to do right away.
  • Check back in with the person.

Classroom Activity:  Play classroom games that help students to increase their ability to follow instructions with traditional games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. Or challenge your students to a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school.  Explain that theirs is no way to succeed without following directions precisely. As with all the skills, have your students go through the steps every time you issue a request until they become second nature.

Social Skill: Asking for Help

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Ask the person if he or she has time to help you.
  • Clearly explain the kind of help you need.
  • Thank the person for helping.

Classroom Activity: Asking for help can be difficult for many students and even adults. In a class meeting, have students practice this skill by taking a fun and playful approach. On separate notecards, write down situations in which a person is asking for help, e.g., “a man asking a stranger for help moving a piano,” “a teacher asking a colleague for help grading a huge pile of papers,”  “an astronaut asking for help getting out of his suit.”  Invite pairs of students to pick a notecard to act out the scene, including all the steps!

Social Skill:  How to Disagree Appropriately

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Use a pleasant voice.
  • Say, “I understand how you feel.”
  • Explain why you feel differently.
  • Give a reason.
  • Listen to the other person

Classroom Activity: Disagreeing without arguing is a skill that many adults, as well as kids and teens, find difficult. Like all social skills, it takes resources and practice. That’s why going over the steps of each skill is so important. Give students the chance to practice debating and disagreeing when the stakes are low. For example, write a controversial statement on the board such as, “Rum raisin is the very best flavor of ice cream,” or “Rap is not music,” and invite your students to disagree politely!

Social Skill:  How to Make an Apology

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Use your best serious, sincere voice.
  • Begin with “I’m sorry for…” or “I want to apologize for…”
  • Do your best not to make excuses.
  • Explain how you plan to do better in the future.
  • Say, “Thanks for listening.”

Classroom Activity: Let’s face it: apologizing is hard, but it does get easier with practice. Consider tying your discussion of apologies to a book you are reading as a class. From David Shannon’s picture book No, David! to Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy, many stories lend themselves to discussions of social skills, mistakes, and apologies.

Social Skill:  How to Accept “No” for an Answer

Skill Steps:

  • Look at the person.
  • Say okay.
  • Stay calm.
  • If you disagree, return to the subject later in a respectful manner.

Classroom Activity: Accepting “no” can be difficult when we feel strongly about a situation. This is a skill that needs to be modeled repeatedly as its draws on other important skills. In order to accept “no” gracefully, a child needs to be able to respect authority, see another’s point of view, and have self-control. Write five to six situations on notecards and give them to groups of students. Examples: The class wants to ask the teacher to hold the class outside.  Ask your parents if you can watch an R-rated movie.  Challenge students to model how they will ask and how they will handle the answer.  Talk about how they could return to the subject with a respectful argument at another time.


Quotations are great writing and discussion prompts.

  • “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.” – Ann Landers
  • “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington
  • “When you go to a donkey’s house, don’t talk about ears.” – Jamaican proverb
  • “Respect yourself, and others will respect you.” – Confucius
  • “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” – Jackie Robinson
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self–respect leads to self–discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” – Clint Eastwood
  • “People often forget what we say and usually what we do, but they always remember how we made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
  • “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can.” – John Wesley
  • “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
  • “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton
  • “Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” – Frank A. Clark
Helpful Articles:

What are Caring and Thoughtfulness?

Being kind and thoughtful means making ourselves aware of the needs and feelings of others and then taking action to help them. It means taking the time to stop thinking about ourselves, to put the spotlight on somebody else’s needs, and to think, “What can I do to make that person’s life a little better or easier?”

Sometimes we can’t do anything to solve somebody’s particular problem, but just the act of showing concern and compassion can help to comfort them and make a difference. For example, your friend might be worried or sad about something that is happening at home. Even though you cannot solve that problem, you can spend some time listening to your friend’s worries and supporting them as much as possible.

Caring and being thoughtful means letting things matter to us, not just to people that we know but also to people that we have never met before. It means that we also value the needs and well-being of animals and the environment. Caring means that we have a concern when we see problems and unhappiness and want to help, from very simple gestures like buddying with a new pupil at school right through to spending your free time as a volunteer to help a good cause.

So why should we be kind and thoughtful to others?

One ENORMOUS benefit of doing so is that it encourages other people to act in the same way. We can’t put it any better than the famous American pilot Amelia Earhart who once said:

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind of action leads to another. A good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”

So – like a domino effect – we find that a simple act of kindness creates another act of kindness which creates another and another and another ……. and before you know it, the world is a better place because everybody is taking the time to care about everybody else.

As you start to look around and deliberately look for chances to be kind, thoughtful, and helpful, you will be amazed at how many opportunities there really are. Start with the small things like holding a door open for somebody, visiting a lonely relative, offering to help with somebody else’s task or offer for somebody to step in front of you in a queue. Do it with a smile, and you’ll be amazed at how easily you can make other people smile whilst setting a good example for others to follow.

Jesse Owens and Luz Long by Michael Josephson

In 1936 the Olympic Games were hosted by Germany, governed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Hitler’s well–known hatred of Jews and his disdain for non–white races were part of the atmosphere of the Games and, to America’s most famous and accomplished African American athlete Jesse Owens, competing in a stadium filled with swastikas and “Heil Hitler’ straight–arm salutes to the German dictator was distressing, to say the least.

Owens, who held the world record in the long jump, foot–faulted on his first two qualifying jumps. If he fouled again, he’d be eliminated. According to Owens, Luz Long, the only man who had a chance to beat Owens, introduced himself and suggested that Owens play it safe by making a mark a foot before the takeoff board to assure he could qualify. It worked, and Owens advanced to the finals to compete against Long.

This decision to help a competitor is still viewed as one of the great acts of sportsmanship, but the fact that Long was Germany’s premier long–jumper made the act even more extraordinary.

In Long’s first jump, he set a new Olympic record, but Owens beat that jump, setting a new World Record. In the end, Owens won the gold medal, and Long took the silver.


Though he knew it would not please Hitler, Long was the first to congratulate Owens. That’s sportsmanship. But Long went further. He embraced Owens and walked around the stadium with him arm–in–arm before the astonished German crowd. Later they posed together for pictures. That’s character.

Describing the event, Owens said, “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have, and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24–karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment.” Though they never saw each other again, they kept in touch, and as a soldier fighting for Germany in 1942, Long wrote this letter to Owens:

“My heart is telling me that this is perhaps the last letter of my life. If that is so, I beg one thing from you. When the war is over, please go to Germany, find my son and tell him about his father. Tell him about the times when war did not separate us and tell him that things can be different between men in this world. Your brother, Luz.”

Luz Long died from battle wounds a year later at age 30. In 1951, Jesse Owens kept his promise and found Long’s son in war-torn German. He later said that what he valued the most from the Olympic experience had been his friendship with Luz Long.

Most Important Lesson

During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your career, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Relationship Skills – Educational Outcomes: