Its been almost three years now since my latest piece of learning first began. Three years, I must be a slow learner.
You will have to excuse this post; a year ago I made a decision to move from general reflections and pondering to provide specific usable skills and information for others. This article is going to blur the lines, just so you know.
Whenever we take on a new approach, a new method, we inevitably start off less successful until that new skill is mastered.For example; if your soccer / basketball / rugby coach adjusts your style you are going to play badly until you master their suggestion. Then hopefully you surpass your previous performance. There is no difference in Soft Skills.
I believe in the value of Soft Skills so much that for the past few years it has taken me through a journey to virtual self destruction. You see, to believe that everything occurring in life is more to do with a misunderstanding, or your own personal inability to connect/influence/communicate with others is a real danger. And the bigger problem is that people will take advantage of it, willingly or through some innate sense of superiority.
Here’s the problem. I am from the school that believes everyone is fundamentally good but at times act in ways which are not good. That they do this for reasons they honestly believe are essential. This may be circumstantial but also due to developmental deficiencies for example. In my day to day interactions I look hard to find nice reasons why people act in certain ways and say certain things. E.g. it’s important to this person they are successful so they are taking credit. Or that maybe this person feels threatened and so they need to prove themselves as more knowledgeable. Or that this person needs to contribute and be appreciated….etc etc.
I have personally struggled with making the distinction between bad actions (reoccurring) and a bad person. I assigned the action to the person and then refused to accept people are bad. For years I have been stuck in a loop of feeling guilty for disliking actions and the connected person. It has stopped me from addressing or distancing myself from actions while accepting and not resenting the person.
Why is this a Soft Skill problem? Well…Soft Skills are complex rational skills. They are competing with survival oriented, limbic/animalistic and aggressive skills. Given the right environment the most wonderful people can act in the most appalling ways. To be able to maintain a calm, balanced, compassionateand rational approach in the face of behaviour we either don’t understand or know to be bad is the greatest Soft Skill. Also something I am yet to master.
I say this with hesitation; it is really important we acknowledge people can intend to do us harm. Either in the moment or actually planned. Accepting this and finding mechanisms to ensure you and the people around you remain happy is essential. Recognising and understanding early that you are in such a situation will help. Developing your understanding of why people act in certain ways will also assist.
Focusing on honestly doing the best for those around you, without personal agenda, while addressing or distancing yourself from those things that don’t contribute positively is the key. It is great to give people the benefit of the doubt but trust your instincts. Discuss your observations with someone you know that will give a balanced opinion (not an agreeable one). Understand but don’t allow yourself to be labelled, pigeon holed or relegated to anywhere you don’t believe you should be.