If Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, or Ex-Machina are any indication of what’s to come, then we’ve got our work cut out for us. I can see it now: the headlines read “Robots Taking Over the World” or “Machines Moving In.”
With the AI era fast approaching, more and more jobs are being automated. According to a research paper by economists from MIT and Boston University, by 2025 robots could replace 2 million manufacturing jobs alone.
In many ways, we simply can’t compete with a machine so what’re we to do?
The answer lies in bolstering our soft skills.
And since communication is a soft skill, in today’s lesson I’m going to run you through the top soft skills to improve so that you can stay relevant and irreplaceable in the age of machines!
It’s worth investing the time to develop skills that AI and robots aren’t capable of. These skills are what we call soft skills, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
And to that, I’d probably add the ability to interact harmoniously with yourself!
Alright, are you ready for the soft skills lineup?
Empathy is the essence of our humanity. It’s about tapping into other people’s emotions and understanding and sharing them. It’s part of the emotional bandwidth by which we interact with others, especially when making difficult decisions or when facing challenges.
An advanced AI might be able to feign empathy, but true empathy comes from the heart and soul. And this skill is often overlooked in business. As Maëlle Gavet contends in her book, Trampled by Unicorns, "If you define corporate empathy as the ability of a company and its leadership to understand what's happening in the world around them —and how their decisions impact people inside and outside the company —I think you actually have a better company."
So, we can't rely on AI to understand human feelings. Instead, we need to leverage our empathetic abilities to make the right decisions, especially when they’re tough.
Don’t undervalue the power of a smile. When we smile or laugh, we release endorphins and relieve stress and anxiety. A smile provides what psychologists call “a moment of benevolent amnesia.”
And in a calm state, we’re able to see clearer, thereby connecting better with our fellow humans. This is a major competitive advantage.
To get the smiles and laughs going, make some authentic small talk with your colleagues. This boost rapport and team cohesiveness in a way that a robot will never be able to pull off.
Listening actively is one of the top communication skills to master. It enables us to hear what someone is saying – not just their words but also the emotion behind them.
By paying attention to tonality, micro-expressions, hand gestures, and facial expressions, we understand the emotional resonance behind the words.
This enables us to act on intuition to build stronger connections with colleagues and clients and make better business decisions.
Robots don’t have this kind of sophistication. They take what people say literally and as a result, they will never be as adept as you are at incorporate context into one’s actions.
Speaking of unspoken cues, by improving our nonverbals like our gestures, micro-expressions, and facial expressions, we’ are able to communicate with much more fidelity. Words only convey 7% of our meaning. Nonverbals, on the other hand, comprise 55% of our meaning.
So by refining our nonverbal communication and learning how to read other people’s nonverbals, we'll leave the robots in the dust when it comes to behaving in a contextually appropriate way.
Flexibility is another quintessentially human characteristic.
Robots are rigid in their behavior. They don’t have a change of heart. They can’t be convinced or persuaded. Their behaviors are essentially binary. There’s no grey area.
That might be a good thing in some very specialized applications where you want zero variance. But in most business contexts, flexibility is critical to effective teamwork and closing deals.
Flexibility enables us to think more critically about something, weighing all our options, and considering any alternatives. Ultimately it helps us bring a creative perspective to problem-solving.
So train your mental flexibility and you will have a huge advantage over our robot friends.
Alright, so there you have it: five soft skills that we’ll need to stay competitive as AI seeps into our lives.
To recap, those skills are: empathy, small talk, active listening, nonverbal communication, and flexibility.
These five skills tap into what makes us human. They are at the core of our intuition and creativity. By mastering them, you will be able to develop deeper connections with your colleagues and clients, leading to better business outcomes than a robot could ever hope for.
So if you’re worried about AI taking your job, you now have the playbook you need to fight back.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear your own ideas for improving soft skills? What other soft skills do you think we’ll need in the age of AI?
Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡