This is the first article of a series of three, named “Soft Skills Matter”. It is born out of a need to highlight the value of a range of skills that are inherent to all kinds of professions and can undoubtfully make a difference in a job recruitment: soft skills.
I will explain the importance of each soft skill, as well as give some advice that will enable you to become more proficient in the “soft skill mastery”.
The second article of this series will be published on December 11th, and the last one will be available on December 18th.
As mentioned, this triolet will be divided into three episodes:
– First episode: Cognitive skills
– Second episode: Interpersonal skills
– Third episode: Intrapersonal skills
⚠Spoiler: There is no set list of soft skills. Therefore, the choice of these categories as well as their components are purely subjective and, in this case, pertain to my personal choice of skills that I intend to present in this triolet.
In the present article, I will highlight the importance of cognitive skills, such as memory, creativity, critical thinking, attention, and argumentation.
The word « cognition » is derived from the Latin word cognitio meaning « to know ». In this sense, cognitive skills are abilities that enable an individual to assimilate knowledge and experiences. They are extremely important in a student’s career, for example, because they build the basic foundations that enable information’s process effectively and autonomously.
Memory refers to the ability to acquire, retain, and reuse information. The acquisition of this information can occur through any of the five human senses. Who has never heard a song and remembered a past event related to it? Who has never eaten something that reminded him of moments from his childhood? Who has never seen something that brought him back to something similar? This incredible ability of memory requires a great deal of mental energy and obviously deteriorates with age. It is therefore necessary to know how to preserve it. Here are some tips on how to do it:
– Sleeping well: people with high sleep quality tend to have less risk of suffering problems such as Alzheimer’s.
– Having a healthy diet: a varied and nutritious menu is the recipe for a good memory. Some fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 improve the cognitive performance.
– Exercising the brain: Games like Sudoku, or simply doing mental calculations instead of using the calculator, help a lot to strengthen the memory.
The word « creativity » comes from the Latin creatus meaning « to create ». It is usually associated with the possession of original ideas. It is impossible to think about creativity and not think about Mozart, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, or Coco Chanel. Those who think that this competence derives solely and exclusively from innate talent are mistaken. It can be equally developed and perfected. Let’s see how:
– Meditation: A creative mind is a peaceful mind. Stress is a great enemy of concentration, which is a great ally of creativity. Meditation allows the embracement of new points of view, which were not previously considered.
– Don’t be afraid of failure: Without wanting to freely advertise Nike, sometimes it is necessary to “just do it”. If Leonardo da Vinci was afraid of getting the colours conjugation wrong in his paintings, he would never have made the Gioconda. If you make a mistake, I assure you that’s okay. Identifying mistakes and correcting them is a fundamental part of creative learning.
– Being observative: Creativity often derives from the observation of the environment around us. It is also important to have references, so that inspiration can lead to the individual creative process.
Critical thinking refers to the ability to think clearly and rationally and understand the logical connection between ideas. It helps in the analysis of the essential facts in order to form a judgment. It is therefore extremely important in the decision-making process. Let’s look at how can we stimulate our critical thinking:
– Formulating the target: Sometimes what we think our problem is, turns out to be wrong. It is then fundamental to verify well what the problem under analysis is, so that we can then gather all the information available that will allow us to identify the solution to that problem.
– Measuring the consequences: Our actions and decisions carry direct and/or collateral implications, hence the importance of evaluating them well before making a definitive decision.
– Being open to different points of view: The best example for this is politics. It is no accident that opposition groups exist in democratic political systems. They prevent the formation of absolute truths and allow everyone to give their opinions on the matter, whether in favour or contradictory. In fact, the contradictory ones are often privileged, because they are great tools for implementing good decisions.
Attention is the ability to focus on a specific stimulus received at a given moment, leaving aside all others. It is directly related to the ability of concentration. We live in the age of social networks, which spread multiple types of distractions. It is up to us to know how to avoid them at the moments when our attention is most required. Here are some tips that can help:
– Getting quality sleep: As already mentioned in the description of memory, rest is also a strong ally of attention. The recommended is 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.
– Drinking water: Yes, water, not coffee! Drinking water benefits brain activity and enhances the ability to complete tasks faster. It is no accident that the human body is made up of 70% water. It is fundamental in all the metabolic aspects, but also in the ability to pay attention and concentrate.
– Staying offline: As mentioned before, social networks, and uncontrolled internet access in general, are terrible for our attention span, because simply scrolling on the smartphone is very addictive. I am not saying that internet is not useful. It is indeed, particularly for studying and working. However, it is necessary to moderate online activity. After all, who never thought about taking a 5-minutes break to go check some messages on WhatsApp and ended up watching, 30 minutes later, videos of cute kittens on YouTube?
Argumentation is the ability of being able to defend a point of view. Its objective is to convince others that what we advocate is correct. It is important to emphasize that this ability has no negative connotation, in the sense that it is not intended to be used for attacking aggressively different opinions. On the contrary, it can be used in support of statements made by others. Having a good argumentative ability is very important, because the capacity of persuasion derived from the argumentation can help to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Here are some tips to improve argumentation:
– Investing in knowledge: To be able to argue, it is essential to have good arguments. For this, it is important to study, read books, watch documentaries, listen to interviews, ask for opinions from experts on the matter. The options are countless.
– Practicing often: As in everything in life, success requires hard work. In argumentation, it is no different. Martin Luther King was not born a good orator. He became an expert in this field because he had many good arguments, but also because he was a trained master in the art of communication. Who knows how many times has he trained, in front of his mirror, the mythical phrase « I have a dream »?
– Knowing how to answer back: For this it is necessary to keep calm firstly and not give in to pressure. Then, in a respectful and intelligent way, it is possible to rebut the interlocutor’s argument, using another type of formulation or even using some inconsistent parts of his speech for our counterargument.
I really hope that this first episode of Soft Skills Matter dedicated to the cognitive skills has pleased you.
In the next episode I will talk about the interpersonal skills. Stay tuned!
Gonçalo Sousa Ramos
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