Q: “Al, what are soft skills and why all the fuss about them?”
Soft skills are intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that determine a person’s ability to excel or at least fit in a particular social structure, such as a project team, a company or even a jazz quartet. These skills include competencies in areas such as Emotional Intelligence, communication, leadership ability, etiquette, conflict resolution, decision making, self-motivation, self-discipline, persuasion, etc.
The reason for all the fuss is simple. Experts ranging from psychologists to business and spiritual leaders, such as Donald Trump and the Dalai Lama, agree that one or more of the soft skills have the greatest impact on your level of success.
Of course you still need to be able to demonstrate a certain level of expertise in your field, but this is the Information Age. A lot people have- or have access to- hard skills knowledge.
Do a lot of people have that certain je ne sais quoi that inspires and motivates the people around them? Do a lot of people have the ability to communicate clearly and effectively? Are a lot of people good at managing their emotions? Try answering that in rush hour traffic or after standing in the customer service line at Wal-Mart for 45 minutes!
Companies use all kinds of assessment tests like MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test) so that they can get an idea of what your personality is and what soft skills you possess.
A good friend of mine recently applied for a job as a consultant with the Gallup Organization. When she completed the online application and submitted her resume she was prompted to take an assessment test. Based on her assessment test (not her resume) she was turned down for the position via an automated response! The response said that Gallup would keep her results on file and if any positions opened up that fit her profile she would be notified.
Another thing that makes soft skills so “sexy” is that they present a chance to level the playing field. It has been said that your IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is fixed from birth. But your EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), your IPQ (Influence and Persuasion Quotient), your MQ (Motivation Quotient), and any other type of “Q” that you want to invent can be improved.
The most interesting thing about soft skills is this. Although it might be the latest term on the street, it’s nothing new. A great book on soft skills, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, was published in 1936.
The Book of Proverbs 29:20 states “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” It was written and then compiled sometime between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C. It’s loaded with soft skills tips.
And the Ancient Egyptians wrote “Be skilled in speech so that you will succeed. The tongue of a man is his sword and effective speech is stronger than all fighting”.
So, as you can see all the fuss over soft skills is nothing new.
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