We seem to need a reminder every now and then of the importance of what I refer to as Human Skills. Human Skills refer to our communication skills and our ability to connect well with others. While these are sometimes called “Soft Skills,” I prefer to call them “Human Skills.” In our society, when compared to “Hard Skills,” “Soft Skills” are not valued as much. I just googled “Hard Skills,” and found the following, which proves my point. “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.” Do these definitions seem to value one of these types of skills more than the other? I think so, since something that can be defined and measured is more valued by many in our American society than skills that are less tangible and harder to quantify. In our macho society, “hard” can also be thought of as aggressive, (in a good way) and “soft” is more often considered weak. That is one reason for my recommendation that what is usually thought of as “Soft Skills” should be renamed “Human Skills.” I believe that the most successful people have a combination of both Hard Skills and Human Skills. Hard Skills are often a requirement in many jobs. Human Skills should be a requirement in all jobs.
Just think about it. Think about the people you know who you are always glad to see, and those who you aren’t. It is likely that those people who you are glad to see have good Human Skills, and those in the other category do not. Think about the people who are nice, friendly, and listen at least as much as they talk. These people have human skills that allow them to connect well with others.
Sometimes it is easier to describe the opposite of something than it is to describe what it is. People who lack sufficient human skills do not speak to others when they enter a room, and do not say goodbye when they exit. Greeting others and saying something appropriate when leaving a room are important human skills. People who have a long conversation with one person when there are others around lack human skills. Someone who does so much talking that others can’t engage in conversation with them lacks human skills. People who go to networking events to collect business cards and interpret what they are there to do as engaging in small talk lack human skills. Yes, being able to make small talk (whatever that is!) is considered an important networking skill. A far better skill is the ability to connect with others, which requires engagement on a different level.
We have many current examples on TV news channels of people not listening to others, talking over others, and being condescending to others. And then, there is the too common skirting the issues, blaming others, and even outright lying. People who engage in these behaviors may have great Hard Skills, but they lack Human Skills that would result in them being trusted. That makes it so much harder for them to do their jobs, regardless of their Hard Skills.
Etiquette is involved in communication and relating well with others, but it is a broader subject worthy of its own post.
It would behoove us all to brush up on our Human Skills. And we cannot look to many in the media for how to behave. Unless we are looking for examples of what NOT to do.
Back to the definition mentioned earlier of Hard Skills and Soft Skills. I disagree with the premise that Human Skills (referred to above as Soft Skills) are less tangible and harder to quantify. The fact that they may seem to be is probably because they are not as common. Will you join me in changing that?
I like the term “Human Skills”! I promise to quote you on it!
Thanks so much, sweet Chatham!
Wonderful post Patti. I have also heard soft skills referred to as people skills. In the healthcare workplace where we take care of people, it is sad that metrics used to evauluate staff are more heavily weighted on the hard skills and less on the human, people skills . Healthcare needs more people who are empathetic and caring.
Deb, thanks so much for your kind remarks. You are so right about people skills needing to be a more dominant focus in health care. You have probably heard the quote, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Many nurses excel in the caring. Thanks for all that you do in that regard.