By Sara Orellana
Growing up, we learned how to write papers, outlines, and do presentations. We spent almost all of our school years learning hard skills that would help us in life, or so we were told. Hard skills are meant to help us earn money, or at least that is how I sum it up. But we weren’t taught soft skills.
I’m not sure when learning soft skills happens, but those were classes I must’ve missed.
Always the new kid in school and often the victim of bullying, I had no soft skills.
Attending four elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools, somewhere in the transitions, my social skills didn’t align with my peers. I can’t remember lessons on conflict resolution, how to have difficult conversations, or how to take criticism.
No amount of intelligence or other skills can make up for not having soft skills. Unable to pick up on subtle hints and signals, I was ready to quit.
The good news? Soft skills can be learned at any age.
Looking for help, I found a counselor who had the resources I needed. A book of more than 100 soft skills every child should master in middle school. And the lesson was to stop worrying what other people think.
I love to learn, and am a firm believer that 99.9% of the problems in the world are because we lack skills and understanding. After buying the book and working to master a skill a day, I felt my confidence rise, and noticed my encounters were greatly improving. I was ecstatic.
As parents, we want better for our children. I wanted my child to grow up secure, knowing who she is, and how to navigate the social complexities of the world. The only way I knew to teach B was to model the behavior, set time to learn skills together, and to talk about our emotions – a very different approach than my peers.
I encouraged conversations that started with, “When you do this, I feel that.” People thought I was crazy. I was encouraging my daughter to talk back, to let me know how I made her feel, and to tell me what she needed.
My experiment worked. Between her sophomore and junior year of high school, she found her voice. She knew what to say when something happened. She could navigate workplace drama, and knew how to navigate the complexities of high school.
I have to admit, I am equal parts proud and jealous. But the fact that she will never have the setbacks I endured because my soft skills were lacking makes it all worth it.
Take time to ensure your child is learning soft skills. Practice with them at home. Encourage them to stand up for themselves, and normalize talking about emotions. We need well-rounded children, not stoic workers.
Sara Orellana is a community volunteer, entrepreneur, author, amateur chef, and advocate for rescued animals. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.