Upgrade Your Soft Skills; Needed Now More Than Ever

soft skills

Summary: The rules of the game of work are changing. We are in the middle of a behavior reframe. Social media teaches us that “if you think it, you should say it,” regardless of consequences. Not true! Here is a better way.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Holiday time is upon us at full speed.

For example, everyone wants to be out and about. Travel is way up. Tickets for a Taylor Swift concert go in minutes.

We are all, it seems, looking for the fun and joy we crave from pre-pandemic days.

And yet, we are more discourteous, as they say uncivil, to each other now.

Now is the time for leadership programs for everyone.

Above all, I know you teach that soft skills are more challenging than most tech courses.

Sadly, some I know still scoff at the idea of compassion and empathy at work. They roll their eyes. Then say we are all programmed to be sissies.

I’m afraid I certainly have to disagree with the “old guard.”

Ultimately, please offer guidance for communication in this fast-moving, contentious world. I especially want to know more about what win-win looks, sounds and feels like as we open up the world again.


Please and Thank You Gal

Positive communication training is needed for stress management and collaboration.

Dear Please and Thank You Gal,

We are in the “ugly middle” of changing relationships, moving from dysfunction to collaboration.

Above all, the level of collaboration we head toward is a new model, not yet fully formed.

The demand for more transparent, more effective communication started well before the pandemic, and some call it “the great awakening.”

Let me explain what I mean.

We develop tools and methods to get all the data we need at warp speed.

Just think back twenty or thirty years. Does anyone remember sheets and sheets of paper with carbon copies attached that took time to compile for financial information?

Basic work technology cannot teach us how to limit stress with our co-workers.

Or the tedious way we marketed with only newspaper, magazine, and radio or TV ads?

Today, everyone is a marketer, and most of us can compute numbers in mini-seconds.

It seems like AI leads the way.

In addition, computers have taken over the easy stuff.

Yes, we now have easy stuff, like spell check and Grammarly. Most routine tasks at the office are now automated.

In short, those mechanical geniuses cannot make small talk with a new client or find a way to circumvent a conflict between two co-workers.

Leadership programs for everyone can get us back to civility and cooperation.

There are tests to see how emotionally intelligent you are, which is still relatively new.

Moreover, the big question is, how much do personality tests reveal about how to get along at work?

They may let you know if someone is an introvert or an extrovert (however, I honestly believe we are all various mixtures of the two, we are all ambiverts).

Some are quieter, others louder; it’s about finding the best ways to communicate effectively.

And we all need to find the best ways to talk with each other. The most effective ways to get through a tense conversation and still stand tall when completed.

Every industry must require soft skills to be an essential requirement of their continuing education at work.

In other words, it would help.

How good if you had practical communication skills that underlined respect for others, wherever you work.

Likewise, it is vital that professionals who interact with the public seek out those who have a definite compassion for others.

Here is an excellent example of someone who scored high with the ability to listen.

In fact, what can cause more stress than having a role to calm down frustrated customers? Significantly challenging when there is a plane delay?

Compassion for others can give you a “Helper’s High” to do good and feel good.

Imagine this scene: Several weeks ago, in a very crowded airport, I watched as a harried airline employee fielded questions about a late plane, now almost three hours overdue.

There was pandemonium around the gate agent who wanted to help.

I stood on the side, curious how he would get the unruly crowd to cooperate.

I was amazed when he did what I call a “pattern interrupt.”

We have become so comfortable with yelling and blaming that we are angry, noisy bullies.

I was fascinated when he stopped talking and stood quietly. This lasted for over a minute.

I sensed he had a plan.

His body language remained neutral.

That’s it.

He stopped answering specific questions.

Here is where it gets interesting. And here is a technique I want you to consider using when stress hits the hot button.

A pattern interrupt means surprising people with a different way of responding.

He raised his hand high (not his voice), undoubtedly an attention-getting device.

We all, like classroom students, became quiet.

He spoke in a solid yet neutral tone.

“I know we are all frustrated (he included everyone in the group, including himself, no exceptions). Therefore, I will do my best to have all the information you need, especially if you have connecting flights (which took some of the anxiety from others, letting them know he would be in charge). I have also authorized lunch vouchers for those who don’t want to wait on an empty stomach so that you can get a great turkey sandwich or cobb salad (addressing the present stress and offering some comfort food).”

He continued in that same steady voice, “It’s not the weather (it was a sunny day). It’s a mechanical issue (gave accurate information). We want to get you to your destinations safely and happily (change the anger and disappointment with a few strong words like safe and happy).

The crowd did calm down.

Silence can calm a crowd if you stay centered.

Ultimately, I was curious, and when we were ready to board the plane, I called him aside to find out where he had learned to be so calm and collected amid 200 frustrated passengers.

Did he learn it at work? Was there an opportunity to attend communication classes? Was it from his schooling?

“No, ma’am. I grew up in a family where I was one of six kids, and both of my parents worked full time and then even overtime to keep pizzas and salads on the table. I watched them and learned from them. When we were brats, my parents never lost their cool and took the time to include us in decision-making. Guess it just comes naturally.”

And with that, he handed me some excellent chocolate chip cookies. “Here, hope this makes you feel happy.”

Leadership programs for everyone at work can help redirect upset and keep the peace.

Look, most of us did not have parents who stayed calm and taught us high-level leadership traits by their example. Yet we all need to learn them, which are more complex to teach than technical skills.

Indeed, soft skills are needed now more than ever.

And with our attention spans, I’ve been told; at the goldfish level, we must speak up and grab attention in seconds (I think you lose people after eight seconds.)

While we all wonder what Elon Musk will do to restructure Twitter, basic knowledge is that we must learn to say anything meaningful in less than 140 characters.

In short, the most vital aspect of leadership and communications training is to “say what we mean and do what we say.”

Perhaps we may have to offer remedial courses at work on essential communication.

Being soft is often the most effective way of being strong.

Think of it this way: Being soft is being strong.

A LinkedIn analysis shows effective communication must be followed by:

  •  being organized
  • having the ability for team collaboration
  • punctuality
  • critical thinking for problem-solving
  • creativity
  • adaptability

Let’s go back to my airline attendant. He’s one of the lucky ones. He learned good people skills at home and brought them to work.

I believe communication skills must be part of regular, ongoing leadership training. I mean leadership training at every level.

In conclusion, maybe all of us who work must polish our skills. Then we can take them home so the next generation of workers can come into the workplace more socially savvy.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. My team and I have developed a robust communications program focused on stress mastery that is ready for your organization. The online program includes many unique modules and offers a stress master certification.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options