Tip #918: Skills Aren’t Hard or Soft

“Let’s call them real skills, not soft.” Seth Godin

I’m tired of the distinctions between soft skills and hard skills. They are all real skills, so that distinction doesn’t help.

Hard skills are considered technical competencies learned through education or training, while soft skills are considered more subjective personality traits that you are either born with or develop through life experience.

There are some “soft” skills that are personality traits: adaptability, self-confidence, dependability, compassion, and honesty. So, let’s call them personality traits, not skills.

But there are many “soft” skills that are clearly not personality traits and need to be learned, such as communication; teamwork; problem-solving; critical thinking; decision-making; conflict management; public speaking; and leadership.

Leadership alone includes other skills that need to be learned and practiced, such as coaching; conflict resolution; decision-making; delegation; giving feedback; mentoring; strategic planning; team building; and performance management.

There is nothing easy about any of these supposedly “soft” skills!  Few people are born with these skills- nor do they always develop through life experience.

If hard skills are learned abilities acquired and enhanced through education, practice, and repetition, then these “soft” skills are also hard skills. Individuals need to take classes, get certifications, and even earn academic degrees to achieve these skill sets.

What if we recognized that all skills require training and practice to master?  After all, that is how a skill is defined.

Then we might sort skills into five categories: technical skills, self-management skills, interpersonal skills, management skills, and conceptual skills.

Technical skills are the skills required to perform practical tasks in the areas of science, the arts, technology, engineering, and math-for example, programming, drawing, and artificial intelligence.

Self-management skills are the skills required to regulate and control personal actions, feelings, and thoughts- for example, stress management and time management.

Interpersonal skills are the skills required to communicate and interact with other people- for example,  communication, negotiation, and assertiveness.

Management skills are the skills required to lead people, programs, and organizations- for example, coaching, delegation, and motivation.

Conceptual skills are the skills required to identify, hypothesize, and solve intricate problems- for example, analysis, critical thinking, and strategic planning.

It would be easier if we could use just two adjectives to distinguish skills, but hard, soft, and real aren‘t appropriate.

Question: How would you distinguish between the different types of skills?

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


#softskills #hardskills #realskills

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