Soft Skills: Communication . . . and Manners


As I interviewed my control group of ten in preparation for the Chick Tech Conference, the women (consisting of mechanical engineers, process engineers, computer engineers, program managers, a scientist and a medical doctor) they said they would like help with the Soft Skills.

I think one of the reasons people with scientific and engineering minds do not spend a lot of time investing in the soft skills is because there is not a current widely accepted measurement of them. Measurements are being developed. A google search on measuring trust, reputation, social impact will reveal good work that is evolving here.

I may hire a college intern next summer to write a white paper on this topic as it’s a topic that interests me and I’d like to share more on it.

In the meantime, here’s the excerpt I shared at the Chick Tech Conference

When you don’t know, ASK . . .

question mark

I’ve been in so many situations I know nothing about. Working in several different industries I’ve had to ‘get smart, fast.’ How do I do it? By asking questions . . . and more importantly listening to the answers. Since I wasn’t really sure what would be valued at the Chick Tech Conference, I put together a control group of 10 women and I asked them what they would like to hear at a conference like this.

Then I listened.

Listening is something that you can never do deeply enough. Words are only a small portion of communication. So many factors go into the message. When I listen to a client, I start with secondary research. I read everything I can, starting with the website.

When I have a face to face meeting, I don’t report what I learned, I listen more. I ask open-ended questions (who, what when, where, why, tell me more . . . ) If I find a discrepancy between the secondary data and the conversation I’m having, I’ll listen more.

Several things might be going on . . . they might be creating something new and it hasn’t yet been documented. Or the person I’m speaking with has a more narrow view. I may have a broader vision of the topic based on my research. The person I’m speaking to may have a specialized view if they are a technician working in a specific role. I listen to them and I learn more.



When I’m listening I often think of it as holding a prism up to the light. Each time I turn the prism a new brilliant color or luminous image will be revealed. Listen deeply to your audience as you gather requirements, create new technology, discover scientific solutions, build a new business or bring a product to market. Listen . . .