Attending a Women’s Business Conference Breakfast in DC, I will always remember a scene, as if played in a movie.
It was a simple moment, but spoke so clearly to me about humans and our need for face-to-face communication. 5 tables away from me there was lively conversation going on. It was noisy, but it was wonderful! Laughter filled the air, loud voices, and even some anger in the mix of words and sounds. Someone stood to take a picture of the group and whistled to get their attention. Abruptly, all noise stopped and there was sudden silence. It was almost unbearable. Feeling a bit philosophical, I wrote a message in my notes, “Is this how our world will become as we talk less and less to each other?”
There is good reason why we do the things we do. There is much to fit into 24 hours. The faster that we can accomplish our lists, the more we think we can fit into a day—whether that is more work or more fun. We want everything to be streamlined, unchallenging, and effortless, BUT, what are we losing in the process?
It’s human nature to want to take the easiest way; the easiest way to accomplish a task, a shorter route to work, and the most straight-forward way to communicate with those around us. Let’s face it, if we have business to take care of, it is easier to write an email and wait for a response as opposed to picking up the phone and engaging in a conversation. We don’t need as many “soft skills” compared to when dealing with an individual face to face.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are the skills that are not technical or job-related. Communication, making decisions, self-motivation, team work, and conflict management are just a few of the skills considered to be “soft.” These are vital to have, yet 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the “biggest proficiency gap” they saw in the US workforce, according to a survey done by Adecco Staffing USA.
When discussing job candidate qualifications with local companies, communications skills are generally the highest priority on their list.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” 95% of our communication is considered non-verbal (not the non-verbal such as texting.) We use body-language, voice inflection, and eye contact.
I think we are failing at communicating with one another in a real way. We must never forget the human equation and the art of communication.
What can we do about it?
Good news is “what’s lost can be found.” People can learn soft skills—many times slowly, but surely and with practice. It’s hard to quantifiably measure soft skills because they are subjective; it is definitely apparent when they are missing.
Heidi Shadel is a Cumberland business owner and graduate of Frostburg State University with a master’s in business administration. She believes in small business and the power that it holds in America’s economy, especially having a passion for helping small businesses succeed within the tri-state region.
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