Matthew 22:34-40

Andre von Mollendorff on why everyone should develop people skills and not just educational ability.

Andre von Mollendorff
Andre von Mollendorff

After working with young people (between the ages of 18 and 25) for the past 20 years, I have seen many students excel, where others struggle. Why is that?

It can't be an IQ issue, as many of these young people are well educated. It can't be an economic issue as many of them come from well to do homes.

What I have discovered is that often those who are excelling in life are the ones who have good soft skills.

Soft skills, according to the Oxford online dictionary, are "Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people." (1) Soft skills is to do with how I behave in my daily interaction with other people. How I handle my emotions. How I respond or react when things don't go my way etc. I like to define soft skills as the wisdom to use the information at hand and consider the context, the people, and the specific situation before making a decision.

The difference between soft skills and hard skills is that hard skills can be measured and easily tested. Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills that are under the surface (so to speak) and are often difficult to assess. With the increase in technology and the information revolution, so many young people are left interacting with screens all day long and the end result is their soft skills are deteriorating rapidly.

Technical skills are what will get you a job or help you start a business, but it is soft skills that will help you keep your job or grow your business. When interviewing different business owners, what is interesting is that most of them would say that when interviewing potential employees they focus 80% on the person's soft skills and 20% on their hard skills. They will say things like, "We can train the new employee with the technical skills if they can communicate, work in a team and show initiative and problem solving skills." What also makes soft skills so important is the fact that they are skills that don't have a 'sell-by' date. They are never going to become obsolete through disruptive technologies.

According to recent research done by Deloitte in 2017 regarding soft skills, their research explains why soft skills in the next 10 years will be crucial for business success. (2) Deloitte also highlights the fact that soft skills are transferable between industries. This means that when changing jobs, those people with good soft skills are going to be able to adapt easier than those who have poor soft skills.

Daniel Goleman says, "For star performance in every job and in every field, emotional competence is twice as important as purely cognitive abilities. For success at the highest levels, in leadership positions, emotional competence accounts for virtually the entire advantage." (3)

How do I develop my soft skills then?

Life is about people:
Firstly you need to recognise that it does not matter how smart you think you are, or how many degrees you have behind your name. Life is about people. Business is about people. Everything is about people and how you interact with them. Interact with as many people as possible from different backgrounds, ages and cultures. Study people.

Emotional intelligence is key:
Secondly we need to learn as much as we can about emotional intelligence. How aware am I of my feelings and the feelings of people around me? Do I listen to others and ask good questions? Do I put myself in other people's shoes before I make decisions so I can think about how it will affect them?

Get feedback:
Ask people you know to give you feedback about your social interaction. Find people who do this well and observe how they interact with others.

I believe that soft skills is going to become the new hard skill as technology and artificial intelligence takes over. Those of us who intentionally work on our soft skills will find that life will not only become more enjoyable, but also richer, as relationships is what make your life truly rich.

(1) Retrieved from:
(2) Retrieved from:
(3) Goleman D 1998. Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books p. 31. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.