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T-SEL Competencies: Relationship Skills

The Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (T-SEL) competency of relationship skills is the ability to establish, maintain, and restore healthy, supportive relationships and to navigate diverse settings.

The Competencies, developed for voluntary use, complement the California Transformative Social and Emotional Learning Conditions for Thriving. For background on the development of these competencies and guidance on their purpose and use, please visit the T-SEL Competencies and Conditions for Thriving web page.



Description of the competency, key ideas, and examples.

The abilities to establish, maintain, and restore healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities among individuals and diverse groups. This includes the capacity to use restorative practices to reflect on the impact of their words and actions and to repair and heal relationships with others. Relationship skills include abilities such as:

  • Listening actively, communicating effectively, and self-advocating
  • Developing mutually healthy and productive relationships
  • Making and maintaining trusting, respectful friendships
  • Demonstrating gratitude
  • Demonstrating cultural humility and competence
  • Practicing collaborative problem-solving focused on the common good
  • Attending to harm or conflict through restorative practices
  • Resisting negative social pressure
  • Showing leadership and contributing productively in groups
  • Standing up for the rights of others

(Adapted from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning 2020 External link opens in new window or tab. )


Research-based reasons for developing this competency.

Developing relationship skills in students and adults is integral to:

Positive development, school engagement and success: Supportive, nurturing relationships with adults are essential to the healthy and holistic development of all young people. Warm, caring relationships where educators have high expectations and appropriately challenge young people to grow contribute to a stronger connection to school and higher grades (Osher et al, 2020; Roehlkepartain, 2017). The quality of relationships between teachers and students impacts students’ participation, behavior, and long-term academic success (Roorda, 2011).

Building healthy relationships and navigating conflicts: Restorative practices are used both to proactively build healthy relationships and community, and respond to conflict and wrongdoing with the goal of repairing harm, rebuilding relationships, and restoring community (CASEL, 2020). Additionally, students who engage in conflict resolution and peer mediation programs demonstrate greater academic achievement, increased social support, self-esteem, and well-being, and decreased victimization, anxiety, and depression (Johnson & Johnson, 1996).

Cultural competency and humility: Cultural competence includes developing the capacity to navigate cultural differences; form connections with people from different social, racial, and cultural backgrounds in ways that honor their identity and culture; and solve problems across race, culture, gender, and social lines. Young people and adults require relationship skills in order to cultivate cultural humility “in which one recognizes the limitations of one’s own culture and sees diversity as a potential asset” (Jagers, Rivas-Drake, & Borowski, 2018, p. 7).

Student and Community Statements

“I Can" and "We Can” short statements about the competency.

Student Statement: I can communicate clearly, listen to others, be open to solutions, and seek and offer help when needed to build positive and healthy friendships and other relationships with people who are similar and different from myself. I can make positive choices and prevent and resolve conflicts with care and respect.

Community Statement: We can build a sense of social and community responsibility by building positive, constructive relationships with individuals of diverse perspectives, cultures, languages, histories, identities, and abilities. We can prevent and resolve conflicts in ways that maintain and heal relationships.


Relationship Skills Resource Collection External link opens in new window or tab.


References cited



Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
4.A.1. Students begin to identify inappropriate requests and situations. They understand they can say “no” and respect when others say “no” to them. 4.A.2. Students show progress in discerning and resisting inappropriate requests and demonstrate multiple strategies to navigate negative social pressure. 4.A.3. Students examine and reflect on how they make decisions, how their peers influence these decisions, and how to better navigate peer-pressure situations. 4.A.4. Students recognize the influence of negative peer pressure and actively work to assertively reject unwanted and unhealthy pressures. 4.A.5. Adults model prosocial relationships with colleagues and students alike by using appropriate communication when a personal value is compromised.
4.B.1. Students practice ways to be a leader and contribute to groups in their learning context. 4.B.2. Students understand that leadership skills can be learned and explore being leaders in ways that are important to them. 4.B.3. Students explore different types of leadership and recognize that different leadership capacities, skills, and styles are needed in varied contexts. Students increasingly take on leadership roles and reflect on and identify areas of improvement. 4.B.4. Students seek out leadership opportunities that are meaningful to them. Students recognize group dynamics, including power structures. Students participate in distributive leadership processes that leverage their cultural identity and lived experience.
4.B.5. Adults understand differences in leadership models, such as autocratic, democratic, distributive, etc. Adults demonstrate leadership among their colleagues, with families, and with students, and share their own leadership strategies and successes.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
4.C.1. Students identify what it means to be a good friend. Students demonstrate gratitude toward others. 4.C.2. Students identify characteristics of friends and types and levels of friendship. Students identify why they are grateful for the people in their lives and proactively show gratitude in different ways. 4.C.3. Students examine and reflect on the changing nature of friendships and other relationships and the importance of a diverse peer network. Students recognize characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Students reflect on effective communication within a relationship and the potential impact technology can have on communication and relationships.
4.C.4. Students recognize the value of trust, rapport, and respect in developing healthy relationships across different racial, cultural, linguistic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, ability, and neurodivergent student groups. Students recognize the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. Students use a variety of culturally affirming strategies to show appreciation and gratitude to their peers and social networks.
4.C.5. Adults model being trusting friends, showing culturally affirming gratitude, and maintaining healthy relationships among people of different ages, races, cultures, linguistic backgrounds, neurodivergence, ability, genders, and sexual orientations.
4.D.1. Students show willingness to learn about the cultures of others. Students take pride in their own culture and share information with others. 4.D.2. Students celebrate differences in other cultures. Students identify and demonstrate strategies to show respect for other cultures. 4.D.3. Students explore different cultural practices and world views. Students begin to develop skills for communication and interaction across cultures. Students recognize the importance of a lifelong commitment to reflection and self-critique as the foundation of cultural humility. 4.D.4. Students can identify and affirm the rich cultural diversity that exists in their community, state, and country. Students demonstrate appreciation for, curiosity about, and a willingness to better understand those who are different from them. Students maintain cultural humility through reflection and self-critique. 4.D.5. Adults model cultural humility and dedication to continuously strive toward cultural competence. Adults remain curious about and respectful of others’ cultures, view difference as an asset, and share their own cultural experiences.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
4.E.1. Students identify and talk through a problem and generate solutions with others. 4.E.2. Students use constructive strategies to communicate their perspective and listen openly to the perspectives of others to solve a problem. 4.E.3. Students work with peers and adults to come up with mutually acceptable solutions that address underlying concerns on both sides. 4.E.4. Students recognize the value of collaborative problem solving and actively engaging in empathic listening, respectfully communicating, and honoring equity of voice in order to find solutions and achieve a common goal. 4.E.5. Adults model the process of working with others to solve problems, engaging in active listening, practicing reciprocal vulnerability, and contributing to the common good.
4.F.1. Students can effectively apologize by recognizing what happened and owning their own actions. 4.F.2. Students practice acknowledging their role in a conflict, how others were hurt, what they could do differently in the future, and how to repair harm and move forward constructively. 4.F.3. Students proactively use restorative approaches, including restorative questions in conflicts. Students increasingly take responsibility for harm they may cause and look for opportunities to repair relationships. Students practice forgiveness. 4.F.4. Students can participate in harm reparation by using restorative affective statements and restorative questions in order to communicate the impact of harm and hold community members accountable for their actions. Students are able to take responsibility for their own actions and can contribute to the collaborative process of harm reparation. 4.F.5. Adults model employing restorative justice steps including the five R’s of relationship, respect, responsibility, repair, and reintegration. Adults adopt a restorative, healing-focused stance in their relationships with students and other adults.
4.G.1. Students communicate their own ideas, wants, and needs without negatively impacting others. 4.G.2. Students can communicate assertively and respectfully. Students advocate for their needs and compromise with others. 4.G.3. Students learn and practice nonviolent communication strategies. Students use their strengths to: improve communication; voice opinions directly, with tact; and advocate to have their wants and needs met. Students engage in respectful negotiation. 4.G.4. Students proactively use nonviolent communication strategies. Students consistently self-advocate and clearly communicate their needs and wants. Students are able to negotiate across differences and find mutually satisfactory compromises where appropriate.
4.G.5. Adults use nonviolent communication to clearly express their needs, advocate for themselves, and compromise with others. Adults are emotionally present and available to students, families, and colleagues.
4.H.1. Students recognize all people have the right to be treated fairly. Students understand the difference between tattling and reporting and know when it is important to report something to an adult. 4.H.2. Students recognize all people have the right to human dignity and justice. Students demonstrate upstander strategies, such as distraction and removing targets from bullying situations. 4.H.3. Students examine and reflect on the concept of microaggression. Students understand allyship and the bystander effect. Students understand that allyship is a continuous process that includes ongoing self-reflection. 4.H.4. Students demonstrate respect for human dignity and actively work to be allies for social and racial justice. Students practice calling out injustices, such as microaggressions, and standing up for their peers. 4.H.5. Adults regularly call out inequities,
advocate for social and racial justice, and take action to promote the well-being, humanity, and dignity of others.
Questions:   Social Emotional Learning Office |
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 29, 2024
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