The Elegance of Soft Skills

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Employees who possess soft skills are highly valued in the workplace. Soft skills can be defined as personal attributes that enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. In a 2021 report from Linkedin, 92 percent of hiring professionals said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills, such as degrees and specific proficiencies. As much as soft skills are beneficial in the business world, they are equally essential for a happy life outside of work. 

There is no single definitive list of soft skills, but it usually includes things like kindness, teamwork, and honesty. Apparently soft skills are so lacking in the workplace, that companies are willing to spend a lot of money each year teaching them. The global soft skills training market is expected to reach around 43 billion dollars a year by 2026.

One can hardly discuss soft skills without wondering why these traits are so hard to come by. Perhaps they used to be more widely taught in homes and churches. Maybe community leaders are failing to lead by example. It could be a result of increased technology and social media. Some might find fault with the schools. 

Interestingly, I started teaching in 1985 when junior highs across the country were transitioning to middle schools. This wasn’t just a new name. The middle school philosophy placed enormous emphasis on the emotional and social development of students in grades six through eight. An integral part of the middle school concept was a daily thirty-minute period focusing on affective education, in other words, soft skills. When I retired thirty years later, most middle schools had abandoned that part of the curriculum in what I saw as a response to heightened concern about yearly test scores. After all, there’s only so much time within a school day. 

There are probably multiple reasons our society is failing to foster the proper development of soft skills, and we might all share a little of the blame. Like anything, if we’d like to see a change, we can start with the man in the mirror. Being more aware of our own soft skills could start a spark that spreads to others. 

It is notable that many business people don’t like the term soft skills. Some prefer to call them interpersonal skills. Seth Godin calls them real skills. Simon Sinek likes the term human skills. I tend to think we are simply talking about good manners. In a review of more than a dozen articles, these ten ideas were repeatedly suggested to improve our soft skills.

  1. Be a good listener.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Be friendly and avoid gossip.
  4. Pay attention to body language.
  5. Be a problem-solver.
  6. Speak clearly.
  7. Be punctual.
  8. Show integrity by having strong moral principles.
  9. Manage conflict in healthy ways. 
  10. Show empathy. 

Whether we practice these skills at work, home, or wherever life take us, soft skills can go a long way in increasing everyday elegance. §

“There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness, and none more profitable.”
~ George Bernard Shaw