When I was at Tim Horton’s last week, I gave the employee at the window a tip. He grasped my money and responded with “OK.” While I don’t expect him to kiss my butt for a dollar tip, I did at least expect him to say “thanks.” However, he, like many people in the world today lack “soft skills.”
Soft skills are those abilities people develop that allow them to relate to other people and effectively do their jobs. Some examples of soft skills are work ethic, time management, flexibility, and working well under pressure.
A quick visit to any business will show you that many of these skills are lacking (like my coffee experience). However, these soft type of skills are often highly valued by employers and are even more valuable in social situations. Why such a disconnect? There are several reasons why I believe these soft skills are on the decline.
First, a lot of soft skills aren’t being learned at a young age. When I was younger, a child had a lot of personal interaction with others. Now, with the long work hours of parents and the prevalence of technology, many kids simply don’t learn how to communicate with others at a crucial period of brain development.
I learned to say “please” and “thank you” at young age. In fact, I remember my parents telling me to make sure to say it with the lunch ladies at school. Some people have never learned it!
Second, soft skills are neglected at all levels of education. When was the last time you took a class on managing stress or being flexible? What about how to network or ask someone for a favor? I’m sure the answer is “never.” Schools focus primarily on “hard” skills like math and science to the exclusion of the important soft skills. Someday soon, I’d love to see education start taking soft skills seriously. Of course, my experience with many educators is that they lack those soft skills themselves!
Finally, soft skills are often difficult to teach, which I think explains my second point. Teaching a person how to add two plus two is pretty straightforward. Teaching someone to delay gratification and develop a good work ethic can be very difficult.
I’ve used my business to teach a variety of soft skills like communication, assertiveness, work ethic, time management, and networking. I know that any guy who wants to be popular and successful will need to have the soft skills down.