So, how are your social skills? What you say? Social skills, why would they be important. I have a great job in the IT industry. I work with people who like me and understand me and what I do. I get along with them just fine. If that is what you are are thinking while reading this, then I encourage to keep reading, and you will soon understand the relevancy of my question.

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith wrote the following:

“We can never survey our own sentiments and motives, we can never form any judgment concerning them; unless we remove ourselves as it were, from our own natural station, and endeavor to move them as at a certain distance from us. Be we can do this in no other way than by endeavoring to view them with the eyes of other people, or as other people are likely to view them.”

With Adam Smith’s words above, I believe the relevancy of the question is becoming a bit clearer for you, perhaps it will be even more so when you consider what David J. Deming has to say after recently published study entitled: The Growing Importance of Social skills in the Labor Market.

Deming wanted to know why with the growth of skilled labor position in the workforce there seem to be little growth in the high paying jobs since 2000. After some in-depth research, he found that high-paying jobs required the type of skills that couldn’t be replaced with more automation. Simply put, the need for social skills. These are the type of skills that allow us to interact in a way which demonstrates knowledge of the “rules” both written and unwritten.

Skills in: managing relationships, understanding the feelings of others, cooperating with others, great attitude, showing respect, appropriate contact and active listening.

While it is a fact that technology is playing an ever-increasing role in our lives, and the push to hire more people with the requisite technical skills have been the push throughout the labor market. There are things that a computer just cannot do. Computers cannot detect human reaction or interpret feelings, let alone sense displeasure.

These are things we learn at a young age and hopefully, refine them as we age. Sadly, not everyone masters these social skills. Think Walter and his team of high IQ individuals in the TV series Scorpion. Every one of the team is a genius, including Page’s son Ralph. Page and Cab are the two non-genius team members, but, they have the social skills that team lacks and needs desperately. While the team runs around saving the world, it’s Cab and Page who put out the fires they create because of their inability to efficiently communicate and empathize with the people they are trying to help.

As you move forward on your career path demonstrating your technical acumen, understanding the interaction of team dynamics is – just as – if more important than your technical know how.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2018

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