Celebrate Your Softness
Soft Skills are not appreciated in men anywhere near as much as they should, at work or socially. Here are the key attributes to nurture.
Soft skills are often denigrated as lesser qualities than, say, skills like building walls/client lists/spreadsheets/your own custom bike. Whatever your field is, there’s a need for the core expertise of course, but around that, the ability to be funny, to be gentle, able to listen to people, and operate with warmth…well, that’s the stuff that truly makes a difference.
Perhaps more than ever before, a man’s ‘soft’ skills are valued in an open way than they ever have been. Of course, men have always used their personal skills but they haven’t been demonstrably valued in the same way as say, the ability to strike fear into the heart of a team. The way we understand motivation has changed to fit a modern workforce who are more equal, and see work not as a place to be brutalised in the name of labour, but as places which have a duty of care to their employees. Those playing the ‘hard boss’ game are dinosaurs. And as for personal relationships, well, the soft skills men display at home with family are now being revealed and are bleeding out into male friendships too where the penny has dropped: friends aren’t just for taking the piss out of. Not all the time, anyway.
Here are five key ‘soft’ attributes for men:
- Gentleness. Meaning to treat people with sensitivity, particularly those going through a hard time, but also those who may be new or who feel out of place, or out of control. Gentleness is about seeing a problem and empowering that person to solve it, without overwhelming them. Putting other people first, basically.
- Humour. If you’re British, it should go without mentioning, but really humour really is the key in bringing warmth to any line of work or social situation. It smooths the cracks, helps a team to bond, and lifts the highs higher while making the lows not so bad. Often humour is seen as you have it or you don’t, but making an effort to be funny is often something people forget in the serious world of work. But knowing when to keep things light is like a superpower, whether dealing with business deals or a child having a meltdown. Even in the darkest moments, never forget the funny.
- Vulnerability. Talking about personal matters. Revealing vulnerabilities, or a side to yourself that colleagues or friends don’t usually see, is a truly magical thing. It cracks the mask and lets other people in, allowing for reciprocal behaviour and basic human connection. Let people in to see the real you.
- Thoughtfulness. Gestures towards the people around you that show you have listened to what they said. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about buying gifts, it’s more about taking note of their interests and concerns, and asking after them again, to show you care. It may well mean going away to investigate certain areas yourself and coming back to rejoin the conversation with more knowledge. This could be about music or podcasts or politics or sexuality or anything really…it’s basically about showing an interest over faking an interest.
- Good cheer. Kind of a ‘fake it till you make it’ thing, if you’re as Northern as we are. But adopting good cheer as almost a technique, is pretty powerful. You want to be real, of course, particularly if you need to reach out about mental health problems, but too often you can dip into a kind of low level depression, an acquiescent state of being where you’re going through the motions. Snapping yourself out of this with an optimistic mindset can really help, even if that means you then remove yourself from whatever is bringing you down. It’s not about going with happy-clappy going with the flow, more about a positive approach from inside your own head. This allows you to get stuff done and bring others closer. Far more powerful than rage.
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