In the midst of all the big issues facing the world right now, one issue that can easily be put to bed is whether to call all skills not encompassed as technical skills either “soft skills” or “non-technical skills.”
Academics generally seem to favor non-technical skills, which does give a good contrast to the technical skills that most colleges and universities are primarily teaching. We have published several articles focused on “non-technical skills,” a phrase which outside of academia seems to have even less traction than “soft skills.” “Soft skills” suggests a key factor in their use; these skills are fluid and sometimes difficult to pinpoint.
The Air of Business
Soft skills can be likened to air. We know it exists because we are breathing it, but we really cannot see it or put our finger on it. Soft skills can be like air, essential to our success in jobs and relationships, but impossible to put your finger on. If you asked 10 people who worked for someone if she was a good boss, not everyone would agree that she was. Nor would they agree on why.
Each of us responds to soft skills differently. Some of us respond well to those who can talk about anything easily and engagingly, while others might find that verbal person annoying. Others might prefer someone who is a great listener, a man of few words. Which is right? In both cases, soft skills of communication and listening and interpersonal skills are being employed.
Of course, critics will charge that if you have “soft skills,” then “technical skills” must be called “hard skills.” The term “hard skills” in many ways fits the rigid nature of the aptitudes and testable knowledge on which they are built. But it feels weaker and less reflective of the reality of what it describes.
We favor soft skills because it just feels right. We hope you agree? But if not, feel free to explain why not.