The Hardness Of Soft Skills

The Hardness Of Soft Skills

I have been thinking a lot about the phrase “soft skills”, and just how hard – read ‘difficult’ – they are to learn and master.

And I wonder how they were given the name soft skillswhen they are more labor intensive and difficult to learn than say doing a fishbone diagram or an excel spreadsheet. And why is there this idea that these are somehow less valuable in a business context than hardskills?

Unless you work in a vacuum, and none of us do – even solopreneur, like myself, who work on their own much of the time still have relationships with individuals and groups that shape who we are, what we do, and how we respond.

Soft skills are really hard skills.

It is fascinating to me that the most difficult things for us to learn – how to listen well, think well, and communicate with others are often referred to as soft skillsand often foo food as being silly, warm, fuzzy and just, well, soft. It is true that these kinds of skills have been used in compassion industries such as therapy and hospice. And they may be soft (even fuzzy around the edges) and yet they are not easy.

I think one of the primary reasons people tend to put soft skillsand the attention to learning, even mastering them off, is due to the very fact that they are difficult. They are hard to learn, hard to master and often times hard to implement. And that also is what makes them valuable.

Life is not black and white, linear, reasonable or rational; neither is business.

Soft skills have also been perceived as more art than science. And all science begins with empirical evidence and a persons idea or opinion of what might be so. This art to science ratio is a changing game in light of 21st century findings in both neuro and cognitive sciences. Our sophistication in scientific inquiry to the workings of the human mind and response systems has taken immense leaps over the past 50 years.

An analogy we might use is just as we had the industrial revolution in the 20th century, that changed the face of manufacturing.

What is happening is not an information revolution, although we are influenced with more information in a day than many previous generations had in a life time. It is not even a neuro-biological revolution, although the science of the brain and subtle chemicals has come a long way.

Lets call it a Meta revolution. A kind of perceptual revolution. A potatos are just as important to a meal as the steak, kind of revolution. And the Meta revolution is changing the face of interpersonal communication and human to human contact.

It is well to remember that just as the industrial revolution has not happened all over the world, but primarily in first world nations, the Meta Revolution is only just beginning. This is both a benefit and a difficulty.

The benefit is we can calibrate and change the perception of soft skills. We can learn what we need, to be very good at soft skillsand we can use new information and learning to quantify what we are doing and how.

The difficulty is the learning curve is high. The time is often longer than most either have or want to put into becoming facile and skillful and we, as human beings, tend to over rate our ability and under-rate the negative effects of our own knowledge and style.

The Meta Revolution depends on our perception, education, ability to think well, using various forms of logic and to take a meta position or larger view of what is happening outside of our own thinking and behaviors.

With this in mind, the Meta revolution is science taking many of the attributes of human communication and moving it into an arena that has a higher relationship to hard skills. Here is a definition I got from a Google search for What are hard skills?

Hard Skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify, such as etiquette, getting along with others, listening and engaging in small talk.

In my world, interviewing is both a hard skill and a soft skill. Not just by googles definition, but by our current ability to quantify, learn and track skills that can be used in interviewing contexts.

Clean Language is on the edge of this revolution.

Wanna play hard ball? Learn soft skills

Negotiation training
Cause Evaluation Interviews
CAP program development
Team Development
Leadership Development
HR Hiring Interviews
Business Plan development
Police Witness Interviews

Join James Lawley and myself in California, January 19-20, 2019 for full two day Clean Language Interview training. You can read more about what is on offer in January 2019 HERE


Would like to read something about using Clean questions and principles in an interview context right away? Here is a link to an article: Clean Evaluative Interviewing by James Lawley & Penny Tompkins

Gleanings From Twyla

Gleanings From Twyla

“You can learn a lot by watching”
Yogi Berra

Here is a fun observation exercise adapted from Twiyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit.

My intention of sharing this adapted exercise with you is not as much about stimulating creativity as much as attending to how you do observing and what difference that makes to the meanings you make of what you see and hear…and, perhaps,even how creative you are already.

The Exercise

This weekend go someplace where you can do some people watching. Bring something to write on/with.

Choose someone or people to pay attention to and then write down everything they do until you get to 20 items.

The boy gets on the skate board, write it down. His mother says something to him. write it down. She moves her hands side to side, write it down. He looks to the right, write it down…and so on.

It shouldnt take you long to collect 20 items of observation.

Now as you read your list, notice how your imagination works creating an interpretation, a story about what you observed. This is creativity at work.

Was the mother concerned that her son would fall, maybe run into other people walking near where he was riding? Was the boy on the skate board happy and having fun, out for a day off of school, on vacation? How did you interpret what you observed?

What difference, if any, did you notice between when you were attending to only writing down observations and when you moved to attending to interpretations of what you saw?

How are they the same?

How are they different?

What else did you notice?

Now do it again and only write down those parts of your observation you find interesting. You may find it takes a bit longer to get your 20 items.

And notice what happens to your observations when you apply that filter find interesting” and how that effects both the kinds of things you notice and how you interpret them.

How was the first observation exercise the same or different to the second one?

Did you enjoy one more than the other?

Did you learn more about yourself and or other people doing one more than the other?

Is there anything else you noticed?

I would love to hear your experience with this exercise. To share, simply post a comment below.