In my experience…soft skills save lives
Over the last five weeks I’ve averaged 10-12 meetings per week with people I didn’t previously know. My goal was to build my network, get to know new folks and learn about what they do. I’ve never done a networking blitz like this before, and I really enjoyed it. It was exhausting, in a refreshing way. I met with people from all sorts of professions, industries, backgrounds, disciplines and points in their careers.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. The diversity of the journeys people have taken is amazing. I listened, learned and shared. Overall, I’m better off for having done it, even though initiating those contacts was outside my comfort zone. The stories I heard were of successes and failures, accomplishments and tough lessons. The vast majority of these meetings exceeded my expectations. They also reconfirmed for me that there are still non-technical skills, like interpersonal interaction, that are crucial to our existence.
In my experience, these soft skills save lives. And they are much more than just the ability to communicate. They also include the ability interact, progress and live. Success comes from interaction, connection and opportunity. Effective interaction requires some level of soft skills. I’ve met folks on both ends of the soft skill spectrum - those whose soft skills barely exist, and those whose soft skills are so strong I envy them.
Soft Skill Acquisition
Soft skills are about relationships. Relationships with individuals, communities, causes, professions and passions. Our early relationships certainly influence the development of our soft skills. I’ve often heard the question; Can soft skills be taught? I don’t know the correct answer, but I suspect that some soft skills are more easily taught than others. The scenarios where I hear that question most are related to hiring. This includes hiring for jobs that require experience or those to be filled by individuals looking for a first job.
The biggest fear seems to be hiring someone who won’t get along with others, can’t interact with those senior to themselves (if required) and / or can’t be trusted to be customer-facing (again, if required). The comment made is always something to the effect of; 'We can teach them how to (fill in the blank), but I don’t want to have to teach them how to interact with others'. That’s understandable, because the prevalent perception and expectation is that soft skills were somehow already supposed to be ‘acquired’ at some point prior to me having to deal with the person. I’m guilty of thinking like that, and while it’s unreasonable to expect that soft skills can never change (for better or worse), I will always have some subjective baseline of expectations when it comes to the soft skills of those I want to associate with voluntarily, especially in my professional life.
I’ve found that soft skills are right up there with hard skills, innovation, motivation, drive and access to resources as ingredients in the recipe for success. My soft skills aren’t perfect, but I’d like to think that as I get to know more people, they’ll get better. I’m going to continue my networking journey, which becomes easier the more I do it due to the self-perpetuating nature of the desire for someone to say (or me to say to them) “I know someone you should connect with!”