We can learn soft skills.
I mean, we can really obtain them. Now you can scroll to the next article. But here I will tell you how you can do it, so come back here.
As a Product Manager I recently realized how strong soft skills can be the fuel to my doing engine. They help me every day to make great decisions, collaborate, develop myself, and be the leader I want to be.
When I started my podcast “Skills — Learning Nowadays”, I read updated studies and scrolled through the Internet to make a list of skills I would like to learn and teach in my Podcast. The broadest list I found was written by Seth Godin.
In fact, I didn’t even know how I would do it. For each subject I chose a professional person that could teach the others by sharing helpful tips we all can apply. After some great episodes, I came back with guidelines.
If you got here, I suppose you know some soft skills and their importance is growing nowadays. Otherwise — you can start with this post.
Hold On, Is It Really Possible?
A skill, soft or hard, is an acquired ability. That’s why we can learn and teach skills.
Now this sentence is true because learning is one of the broadest concepts on this planet. For years, many studies about learning have been published. As of now, almost all the researchers agree that we can learn in more than one way.
For soft skills, we need other learning approaches. Different from what?
Forget What You Learn
Once upon a time, some institutes called “Schools” were created. These old education systems took control over learning. They all taught specific skills called STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Unsurprisingly — these skills are popping into our minds when we think about HARD skills. When we think about learning, we confuse and mix learning and education. They are not the same.
In some situations, we need to unlearn concepts, ideas, and fixed thoughts before we learn new ones. So let’s forget how we learn in school. Let’s learn from scratch what is learning, which includes some more forms.
Find Your Learning Mates
The best way to start dealing with soft skills is to find someone you can trust, and who’s got the skill you want to learn. Your chosen person will help you in two ways: imitating, and diverting your attention.
Imitation is a basic form of learning. Pay attention to the way your chosen one acts with their skills and gives voice to them. Try to figure out how they manifest their skill and try to imitate them.
I believe that learning starts with paying attention — to your process, to your behavior, and to your expressions and thoughts. Our social environment can divert our attention to other ways of thinking, to behavior that differs from us.
Don’t forget, each person acts differently. Try to expand, choose other people to learn from. I especially love ones that act or think differently from me. They challenge me to rethink my behavior and help me to find my version of the skill.
Now you are ready for the next level — teach others. We learn deeply and differently when we teach someone else. Try it.
Some basic guidelines will help you to adopt new skills. You are going to start your learning process by imitating your mentor. In my Podcast, I try to get from my interviewee a set of basic principles and emphasize the authentic stories we all can imitate.
At the start, this process will feel too framed and structured, probably you will lose track of the basic tips. This is just fine. Do you remember your bike-riding learning process? Sometimes you succeed at the pedal, and sometimes not.
“Fake It Until You Make It”. I do not like this sentence, but this is an efficient way to apply new behavior. This saying emphasizes the importance of persistence. We have to focus, push ourselves, practice again and again what we learned. It means investing time in planning, self-reflecting, and trying more. It means being smart in retrospect. There is no other way.
Set Your Own Goals
It makes sense to think about soft skills as one thing, but they are diverse, different, and probably none of us needs all of them, only some of them.
There are joyful ways to learn math and science called academic degrees, but from my experience, we can’t start a journey of learning soft skills. Soft skills are always context-related. They are this magic that makes us better in what we do.
Purpose is key to what we do. Try to think about the soft skills you need to learn as a part of your journey when you set your goals and choose your destination.
As an example, years ago I wanted to investigate my passions in many fields: Education, Learning, Social Activity, and Technology. On my way, I learned to break out of my comfort zone, dealing with failure, and more. Nowadays, my job includes collaborating with others, so I learn every day new communication and emotional skills.