Why soft skills are important
I don’t like the term “soft skills” because it relates to something which isn’t soft and isn’t a skill. Apart from that it’s a great name.
“Soft skills” is the capacity to relate well to our fellow human beings.
Everyone has to be able to do that if they are to survive, let alone be happy, let alone be productive and successful.
Everyone has “soft skills” already.
The questions are:
– does a person have enough “soft skills” for their needs and for those with whom he or she comes into contact?
– does a business, or other organisation, collectively have the level of “soft skills” it needs?
Interestingly, the answer to the second question is always, No.
There is no such thing as a maximum level of “soft skills” beyond which it is impossible to go.
Every improvement in “soft skills” brings with it the likelihood of improved working, and that has the potential for better performance and more success, however that is measured—and it isn’t all about the bottom line.
There are corporations and public sector bodies with massive deficits of “soft skills” and consequential massive opportunities for improvement. It’s often the case that these deficits are created by a relatively small number of individuals, within the organisation, with the power to determine its corporate “culture”.
Wikipedia’s definition of “soft skills” is good enough:
Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.
I don’t use the term EQ, though, because the word quotient implies that EI (emotional intelligence) is measurable, and it isn’t.
Most of the items on the list—except communication, language and, to a degree, management—can’t be taught, though improvement in them all can be facilitated, mentored, coached. This is why “soft skills” aren’t skills, because skills are behaviours.
However, it’s worth thinking of “soft skills” as having a more general foundation than Wikipedia’s somewhat random list. To paraphrase Daniel Goleman, who popularised the whole thing, emotional intelligence competences are:
Self awareness – “knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions”
Self regulation – “managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources”
Motivation – “emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals”.
Empathy – “awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns”
Social skills – “adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others”.
Having good “soft skills” equates to being good at these five things. Being better at “soft skills” means being better at these five things.
> What is emotional intelligence?
> Possibly frequently asked questions
> Emotional intelligence
> Business relationships
> The value of soft skills to the UK economy [Gary Weinstein]
© 2015 Jeremy Marchant . image: Free images