Current course:  SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Online Course: Adult Curriculum

Interact with Others

Interact with others refers to the abilities to relate to and work with supervisors, co-workers, and the public. This article contains key criteria that DDS will assess, tips on gathering information, and examples of functional descriptions.

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NOTE: Beginning on January 17, 2017, the name of this functional area was officially changed to “Interact with Others” from “Social Functioning.” The aspects of this area of mental functioning will remain unchanged
This area of mental functioning refers to the abilities to relate to and work with supervisors, co-workers, and the public, such as family members, friends, neighbors, grocery clerks, landlords, or bus drivers.
Aspects of "Interact with Others" can include:
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Talking/relating/cooperating with others
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Asking for help when needed
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Handling conflict with others
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Conforming to rules
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Understanding and responding to social cues (physical, verbal, emotional)
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Responding to requests, suggestions, criticism, correction and challenges
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Tolerating frustration
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Stating one’s own point of view
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Keeping social interactions free of excessive irritability, sensitivity, argumentativeness or suspiciousness
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Engaging in long, one-sided conversations
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Intense obsession with 1-2 specific subjects
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Repetition of the same comments or question
How does DDS utilize this information?
DDS is evaluating the applicant’s ability to function around others in a work setting independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis. Interaction with others in work situations may involve communication with the public, responding appropriately to persons in authority (e.g., supervisors), or cooperative behaviors involving coworkers.
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SOAR Tip: Impairments in this area may include a history of altercations, evictions, firings, fear of strangers, avoidance of interpersonal relationships, or social isolation.
Gathering Information:
Remember that your observations are important!
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Do you observe the applicant appearing fearful of or displaying anxiety about being around others? Does the applicant have difficulty maintaining eye contact?
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Has the applicant canceled appointments with providers due to being fearful or avoidant of leaving where he or she stays?
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Does the applicant frequently repeat phrases, comments, or questions? During conversations, does the applicant continuously return to one or two specific subjects and require redirection?
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Don’t forget to gather information and observations from other people who interact frequently with the applicant. Overnight shelter staff, program staff, family members and former coworkers can be invaluable sources of observed behavior. 
Important questions to ask the applicant while you are interviewing them for the MSR include:
Interacting with others in the community:
  • If applicable: Do you maintain contact with your family? If not, why?
  • How often do you go somewhere outside? Do you usually go by yourself or with other people? Do you prefer to be alone or with other people? Why?
  • How often do you visit other people? Who do you usually visit? How often do other people come to see you?
  • Describe any difficulties you have with traveling outside the house.
  • Do you notice that you had friendships before that you don’t have now? Do you have thoughts about that?
  • Who do you see on a regular basis? How do you and ________ get along?
  • What do you do if someone makes you really angry? How do you respond? What do you do?
  • What do you do when you have general disagreements with others?
  • Do you feel like you avoid being around other people? If yes, why?
  • Are you in any groups? Do you like being in groups?
  • What kind of person would you say you get along with best? Who gives you the most difficulty?
Interacting with others in work settings:
  • When you worked before, how did you get along with your supervisor? Your coworkers? If the applicant has never worked before, continue to ask the following questions related to the applicant’s experience in the community or at school (if the applicant is a young adult)
  • When someone corrects you, or tells you that you could have done something better, how do you respond?
  • If you don’t know how to do a task, at work or in general, what do you do?
  • Have you ever disagreed with a rule at work or in the community? How did you handle that?
  • Do you work better with a group of people or by yourself?
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SOAR Tips: Limitations in functioning can look different in prison or jail settings. Corrections officers who are not trained to recognize symptoms of mental illness may view symptoms as willful infractions of rules. Alternatively, some behaviors may appear to the case manager to be symptoms (hypervigilance, isolation, mistrust) when in fact they are adaptations to incarceration.
See to read more about SOAR applications for people with justice system involvement.  Another source is the National GAINS Center at
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Putting it into Practice: Translating Gathered Information into Functional Descriptions
Observations / Information from Records
Applicant Statements
Example Functional Description
Took Maria to get a food box from a local charity because she gave her food stamps to another woman (her “new friend”) at the shelter
Lost housing due to paying bail money for a “new friend”, who didn’t return her calls after leaving jail
Maria states that she “loves other people” but sometimes “has trouble noticing when people are not good…I trust the wrong people…I just try to help everyone.”
“I always have new friends everywhere I go”
Maria is often very friendly to others.  She states that she "has trouble noticing when people are not good" and that she trusts “the wrong people." She reports that she often is left with no money because she tries “to help everyone" and has run out of food due to giving her food stamps away. For example, Maria spent her rent money trying to help a friend make bail. Once released, her friend never responded to her calls and she eventually was evicted from her home.  She has been homeless ever since.
John canceled/no showed to four SOAR/doctor appointments
Observed him in the waiting room, sitting away from others, staring at the floor and shifting nervously. After this, arranged for a private space for him to wait.
“They are out to get me. I just can’t go out…the government agents know where I’m going. They know everything.”
John has grown increasingly suspicious and fearful of the world around him.  Due to his extreme paranoia of “government agents” he avoids interacting with anyone outside of family and rarely leaves his house, including to attend appointments at the medical clinic and with this writer.  On the rare occasion that he does leave his house he avoids eye contact, does not speak to anyone and fears that people are "out to get him." 
During meetings with Sharon, she displays socially inappropriate behavior, such as repeatedly asking if she can touch my hair or have my boots or jacket. She is quick to anger during these episodes.
Records indicate she has been asked to not touch staff members’ items at the clinic.
When Sharon is told that she cannot have my items, she was quick to anger and shouted, “I don’t want to work with you anymore. You are mean to me, I don’t like you.”
Records from the clinic document Sharon’s inappropriate social behavior when she asks staff for personal items from their desks. Further, she asked this writer repeatedly if she could touch my hair. On other occasions she has asked, “I like your boots, can I touch them?” or, “can I have your jacket?” When this writer tells Sharon that she cannot have certain items, she becomes angry and shouts, “I don’t want to work with you anymore. You are mean to me, I don’t like you.”