Currently as I write this, I am watching massive upheaval and change happening. This transitional energy is not only happening in America, it is being exhibited around the world. For many, we are left dumbfounded at how we got here, why this is happening, and how we move forward. For others of us, this moment feels like the natural response to systems that have failed to deliver equity for generations. We are seeing unrest and instability challenge institutions and corporations which once stood as infallible pillars of our society. The chaos, uncertainty, and upheaval we are witnessing can all be traced back to cracks in foundations that have been ignored, enabled, and overlooked for centuries. But whether we find ourselves in this moment by surprise or we saw the writing on the wall for decades, the shared question is, how do we recover and where do we go from here?
The answer is both extremely simple and incredibly difficult. It requires us to take on demanding work, both internally and externally. Work that asks us to examine our motivations, intensions, and responses. We are waking up to the understanding that toxic cultures are a by-product of toxic values, maintained through toxic behavior. The fissures in these foundations have grown large enough to be seen and felt in the highest levels of power and leadership. And while we debate whether to let the old way crumble under its own weight, or to repair the damaged infrastructure, we need to utilize self-reflection, compassion, and vulnerability. If we continue to resist evolving our culture, our next actions will only result in more crisis, chaos, and conflict.
Developing skills like compassion, awareness, collaboration, and understanding is the antidote to the malignantly toxic cultures that have become enmeshed in our society. We have prohibited emotional intelligence in our most powerful and influential institutions. Financial, political, religious, and corporate cultures have all had to confront the ramifications of their decisions to turn away from compassion, accountability, empathy, and trust in favor of more toxic and abusive atmospheres. America, for decades, has upheld the false notion that emotions only created chaos, confusion, and drama leading to instability and decline. Emotions were commonly associated with misogynistic and racial messaging around weakness, fear, and failure. This association was also largely because those who defined the terms were in positions of power and privilege while also lacking emotional intelligence. Being deficient in E.I. and soft skills, made it impossible to create any culture grounded in values the creator's lacked.
So how do we begin this work? The toxic behavior that has shaped our culture must be confronted and dealt with. Taking this challenge on can feel both overwhelming and impossible, but do not confuse difficult with hopeless. The work begins when each of us examines our contribution to this toxicity and leans into education and evolution. This means specifically developing and expanding soft skills that we struggle with. This is especially true for skills like compassion, awareness, adaptability, and collaboration. We must allow for these vulnerable skills to take root, be nurtured, and given the ability to thrive. This is the only way through crisis and chaos that doesn’t leave us more damaged and decimated.
Numerous studies have shown that professional and personal relationships suffer when soft skills are deficient. A void in these skills contributes to an overall decline in human connectivity, which in turn leads to a higher need for more mental health resources. In professional atmospheres a lack of soft skills can create a culture of low morale, a decline in productivity, and ultimately a decline in profitability. Soft skill deficient cultures tend to function with more chaos, abuse, and apathy. The question for us in this moment is, how strong are our soft skills? Answering this question may shed light on the fate of our future.
The ability to practice and develop these skills will only become more crucial the more we avoid it. For many of us, the idea of practicing skills like awareness, adaptability, collaboration, and compassion feels completely foreign and unknown. When I began developing the curriculum for All Hands In, I didn't even have the vocabulary around soft skills. I even learned the term "soft skills" while I was researching how my soft skills centered curriculum could be applied to professional training. Discovering research associated with these skills only confirmed something I thought was obvious for years which is hands on, collaborative art forms, such as puppetry, open the door to soft skill development in corporeal ways that allow for deeper processing. This type of practice gives teams, organizations, and individuals, a consistent opportunity to build up these skills. The more efficient and fluid each of us becomes in skills like compassion, awareness, collaboration, and understanding; the more we create the antidote to our current culture of crisis.