Soft-Skills Short Cuts

Photo by Dan Schiumarini on Unsplash

When I hear the term “soft skills training” my brain reflexively conjures up images of sitting through long-winded powerpoints, of turning to the person next to you and awkwardly asking “getting to know you” questions, and of trust falls. So many trust falls..

Believe me, I love falling backwards off a picnic table as much as the next person, but those sorts of training sessions never hit me quite right. Learning soft skills should absolutely be fun, but it should also have some weight. Communication is a key component to many lines of work. Doing it well can have a real benefit, and doing it poorly can have consequences that hurt even more than a failed trust fall.

The following example is from my past experience. Fields in which people care for others are rife with stress.

Individuals who work in health care or education often work long hours in which they are constantly needing to navigate the social well being of their patients, students, or clients.

Even the most extroverted individual has a limit, and these fields test those limits daily.

But people depend on you, so you toughen up and carry on. This is admirable, and the ways in which we “toughen up” may ensure we can hang in their until we clock out at the end of the day, but they often have consequences. For us, and for those that depend on us.

When your brain makes adjustments for self-care, it can often leave other people out of that equation. This isn’t a moral judgement, it doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just how that lumpy thing between your ears is programmed to take care of you. In a way, it makes sense. If we lived our day-to-day deeply empathizing with every human being we came across we would have a complete and utter emotional collapse just walking down the street. Your trip to the laundromat would regularly end in tears.

However, when your job is to care for people and ensure their well-being, this presents a problem. Our brain begins to make self-care shortcuts. Teachers may miss cues from their students, hampering their ability to teach. Doctors may come across cold during a patient’s time of need. Caregivers may treat elderly clients like children, without agency, which in many states can be considered emotional abuse!

Before our brains develop habits that bring us to these places, we need to lay the groundwork. That’s where quality soft skills training comes in. It’s about striking a balance between self-care and care for others, of empathy and technique, and working not only towards being there for a client in the moment, but working in a way that will allow you to be there for them in the long term.

So next soft skills training, go ahead and do your trust fall. They’re awesome. Just take the next step as well.

photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

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