I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “Soft Skills.” Wikipedia explains that they “complement hard skills…the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. They are related to feelings, emotions, insights and (some would say) an ‘inner knowing’ – i.e. they provide an important complement to “hard skills…”
We disagree with the usual terminology.
“Hard skills” are the skills that you most likely had to master in school or technical training. “Soft” – or in our opinion, “difficult” skills include communication, strategic thinking, influence, creativity and more. They are the skills they didn’t teach you in graduate school or engineering school. To use them effectively, you have to pay attention to others’ responses – to maintain a conscious awareness of your impact.
Why does it matter whether you use the term “Difficult Skills” rather than “Soft Skills?”
For many years,we have lived with the implication that “hard skills” are essential and “soft skills” are…well, nice to have, maybe – but let’s not take them too seriously. But in our experience, the skills we’re classifying as “difficult” are the sophisticated skills of leadership. They can mean the difference between success and failure on important tasks and projects. So…when you set out to learn “Soft Skills” remember, there is nothing “soft” about them. You are actually learning “Difficult Skills” – skills that require practice and feedback in order to develop to the level where they begin to feel natural. You must actively choose to learn these complex skills through observation, study, experiential exercises. But – the good news is, you can try this at home!