Why are we Having Such a Hard Time with Soft Skills?
Recently, there has been a surge of articles and studies showing that soft skills are the most highly sought-after skills a person can have in the business world today. It seems like every other day now, I am reading something about the skills gap. Here are the highlights:
THE WORLD NEEDS SOFT SKILLS TRAINING NOW MORE THAN EVER
STUDIES AND TRENDS POINT TO A HUGE SKILLS GAP WITH SOFT SKILLS BEING THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER BY EMPLOYERS WELL INTO THE FUTURE
OUR TECH DRIVEN BUSINESS CLIMATE HAS PUSHED SOFT SKILLS OUT AND WE ARE SEEING THE REPERCUSSIONS
MANY ARE QUESTIONING WHY WE CALL THEM SOFT WHEN THEY ARE ACTUALLY HARD TO MASTER AND SO CRITICAL
The work of teaching human to human skills (also referred to as soft skills, social skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills) is a passion for me because when I discovered the transformative powers of improvisation, it changed me, it made me a better human and it made me question why people weren’t more focused on how we treat each other. Honestly, I hate that we still refer to them as "soft", because I know firsthand how incredibly hard to master they are and even more challenging is committing to practice and conditioning the "soft skills" muscle on a continual basis.
When I started taking improv classes, I fell into a practice of working within parameters that I learned would help me play the game successfully. In other words, I learned that if I and my fellow improvisers adhered to certain tenets and principles, we could successfully play the game of improvisation and it just worked better every time. It was as if someone gave me the formula enabling me with all the ingredients I needed to have success as an improviser, now I just had to learn to tap into all of them at the right time, and that is where the practice came in. Every time I stepped on stage with someone in a class or in a live performance, I had an opportunity to practice and condition the muscles of improvisation tapping into the ingredients I needed at any given moment. As you may have guessed, over time this practice of tapping into ingredients for stage carried over into what I tapped into for all interactions on and off stage.
The ingredients and what many refer to as the tenets, rules and principles of improvisation are basically traits of a good human, the practice of drawing on a set of skills conducive to communicating with other humans. And coincidentally, they look a lot like what the world refers to as "soft skills". Things like Active Listening, Communication Skills, Creativity, Collaboration, Adaptability, Authenticity are just a few of the ingredients at your disposal as a human or as an improviser that you can choose to employ in a given moment.
Just like any other skill, improvisation is a practice that requires a committed discipline. The same should be applied to soft skills. You wouldn't take one guitar lesson or even a few without continuing to practice and grow to be better at it over time. Some have referred to the skill of improvisation as a "gym for your social skills" a place you get to work out the skills every human might utilize whenever they are communicating or building something with other humans.
The world has caught on and is speaking up and out about it. If there was ever a time the world needs to learn how to improvise, it is now. Change is often and fast in our world today, and the art of human interaction is fading fast in this tech driven climate we live and work in. Things like eye contact, authenticity and empathy are hard to come by, yet we need traits like these today more than ever. Don't miss out on a richer life both personally and professionally, make a way to practice and hone in on your human to human skills.
Improvisation at first glance may seem like an odd vehicle for soft skills training, but if the shoe fits, you put it on and dance. For myself and some 5,000 other Applied Improv Enthusiast using the methodology to teach critical skills needed in today's ever-changing business climate, the vehicle is working great, so should you choose, it is there for you.
Kristy West is an Applied Improv Facilitator and Founder of BraveSpace in Atlanta, GA. She discovered improv almost two decades ago and shares her passion for the artform’s transformative power with the world.