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!