It used to be the case that behaviors that exemplified qualities like “compassion” and “cooperation” were labeled as soft skills. Although this term isn’t heard as much as it once was, the perception remains that the skills that fall under this heading are less important and easy to perform. In fact, the implication is that only those who aren’t tough enough to make it in the “big leagues” would concern themselves with soft skills. Pause and reflect with us for a moment – is being considerate really that easy or are soft skills actually pretty hard to practice at times?
If you stop to think about it, generally, it is easier to be selfish and self-focused than it is to be self-less. It’s quicker to do what you want to do than it is to take the time to learn about the needs of others and compromise. It’s simpler to judge or deny someone else’s experience than it is to keep an open mind and explore multiple interpretations of events.
Think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi. Who could argue that they chose an easy path? Their work was some of the most demanding work ever accomplished and this work focused on soft skills.
In honor of the many service-oriented “soft-skills” champions – many of whom will never be famous or recognized for their work – let’s take on the very challenging practice of being “soft” whenever possible. Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Hold off on commenting even if you “know” you’re right; listen carefully and let others fully state their point of view before you consider “correcting” them
- Ask yourself if what you are about to say will make the other person feel criticized or affirmed; if it’s the former, try reframing your comments so that they’re about improving the ideas rather than evaluating the person
- Examine your motivations – reflect on whether what you are about to do is going to help others as well as help you; challenge yourself to do things that meet more than just your needs
- Get curious and strive to put yourself in others’ shoes; contemplate people’s environment, background, and unique circumstances to see how these factors might contribute to their beliefs and attitudes
Self-Discovery Tool Number 64
Soft-skills are hard to do. Looking out for number one is much easier. Challenge yourself to tackle the truly tough stuff such as kindness, understanding, and patience – we promise we won’t think you’re “soft”– instead you will be following in the footsteps of some of the strongest and bravest people to ever have lived!
The Artist was jut released on DVD here in the US. It is an unusual film for the present day because for nearly its entire length you hear only the musical score – it is a silent film. This got us thinking about how we often make talking and doing a priority over silence and reflection.
Part of self-discovery is exploration. If we experiment with silence, we may be able to make space to notice the ways in which we are reacting out of patterned behavior. Often we are too attached to taking some immediate action or voicing a hastily conceived opinion. A moment of silence, for instance counting to ten when we are angry, can give us time to reflect on our reactions – not necessarily to make them wrong – but to give us a chance to examine them and then express those that are truly important to us in a way that is respectful to ourselves as well as the to the situation and the others involved.
Self-discovery is also about getting to the heart of things and identifying our core principles. Being silent can help here, too, because a quiet environment can encourage us to focus. If we turn off all of our devices, seek a spot without manmade background noises and soak in the stillness, we may be better able to get in touch with our values. Doing so can create an inner calm to match the outer one we’ve engineered.
Finally, part of self-discovery is accomplished in connecting with others. Communicating with others helps many of us get clarity on what we think through the sharing process. What can get lost, without some periods of quiet, is the chance to hear our inner voice. Indeed we may keep on talking in an effort to mute this voice and avoid the material it is urging us to recognize. Time spent in reflection can help us open up to these voices and to their input. When we don’t speak, we can listen.
Not acting immediately and instead allowing silence can give us space to test our assumptions about what is really happening within and without. This in turn helps us to uncover more of who we are and what we want. Then, when we do take action, the outcomes are more pleasurable and satisfying because they are in line with our true nature and what we hope to achieve.
Self-Discovery Tool 51
Wait a minute, take a breath, and then observe your internal and external environment. More often than not, what is happening does not require an instantaneous response and pausing will most likely strengthen and improve whatever action is taken. Enjoy the tranquility and potential benefits that a little time honoring silence provides!