Importance of “Soft Skills” in Work and Life

Many people have felt the need to work overseas. For some it is because of missionary ministry. Others it may be due to immigration, or needing to send money home as an overseas foreign worker (OFW). But what qualities are likely to make one more effective working in a cross-cultural work setting?

Consider the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that did a study as to who is most effective in serving overseas (cross-culturally). The three top things listed in Duane Elmer’s book, CROSS-CULTURAL SERVANTHOOD: SERVING THE WORLD IN CHRISTLIKE HUMILITY (IVP Books, 2006), pages 96-97.

  1. “… Ability to initiate and sustain interpersonal relationships with the local people.”
  2. “… A strong sense of self-identity, which allowed people to be real with each other.”
  3. “… Positive, realistic predeparture expectations.”

If one looks at these three— the first two are very much tied to Pastoral Care and Counseling. Even the third one could be seen as tied to PC&C when one realizes that it is, in part, based on a grounded understanding of self within the context of one’s limitedness.

Pastoral Care and Counseling (especially in the context of the group process in Clinical Pastoral Education) is focused on developing healthy relationships (with others, with God, and with self).

While there are those who see the goals of PC&C as “soft” or about being “feel good.” But in truth, this is not true. When it came to work for overseas workers, these ‘soft skills’ were more critical to job success than ‘technical skills’— the skills that would be classically put on a resume to show that one can ‘do the job.’ In fact, having these technical skills are considered important— but only 4th on the list.

Why would technical skills be fourth after the other three? Frankly, technical skills are actually the easiest things to train. On the job, the advice “fake it until you make it” can often work when it comes to these job description skills. However, when it comes to relationship skills and sense of self, attempts to “fake it” is unlikely if these skills and self-understanding are in one’s “blind spots.” You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. And if one knows the problems and chooses to put up a false-front rather than dealing with these issues, this false-front is tiring and often breaks down over time.

Although the CIDA report focuses on overseas work, there seems little reason to think that working within one’s own culture. Patrick Lencione has noted in “The Ideal Team Player” has noted that a member in a working group has three major qualities. One of these is “Great Social Skills.” This is a “soft skill” and the other two are also not hard or technical skills— Humility and Ambition. <Note: Lencione uses the terms “Smart,” “Humble,” and “Hungry” for these qualities.> It is relatively easy to teach a teammember the “hard” skills of a job, but very difficult to teach “soft” skills. This sounds backwards— but the fact that training programs focus on hard or technical skills for jobs not on the other (despite the fact that they are greater indicators of success) should make one suspect which one is easier.

Duane Elmer’s book speaks of the process of learning. That book speaks of three areas of learning within the context of gaining an understanding of a different culture. These are (1) Learning About, (2) Learning From, and (3) Learning With. While this relates to acculturation, one can also look at that in terms of relationship skills and self-understanding. One can learn these by reading up in these topics, and taking evaluative tests and such. However, one must also listen to what others tell us— discovering blind spots. And one learns best interactively— learning in a small, ‘safe’ group.

This is why CPE and other forms of growth groups can be a big help in many areas of life.

Quote on Spiritual Disciplines

“… (W)e need to check that our disciplines foster the fruits of social as well as individual compassion (though even individual compassion ultimately is social compassion by virtue of the interdependence of all things). We need to ensure that our spiritual attentiveness leads to sensitivity and action that fosters God’s just and reconciling peace among the many social configurations of our planet — ethnic, class, and racial groups; nations; deep religious traditions — and between these and our ecological environment (including our own bodies).

What has been called the spiritual life in the past often has had a sad tendency to ignore this wider concern so central to the Church’s prophetic tradition. This compartmentalization of the individual spiritual life is, happily, breaking down today. Increasingly, spiritual life is understood as the life of the Spirit in the whole life of the planet, coaxing us toward ever-deeper, liberating communion with one another and witnessing to our shared and gifting Source who empowers our true unity in diversity.

At the same time, it is evident today that those who once tried to collapse the spiritual life into direct action for a just, human community have discovered that God’s shalom requires more than this. If such action is to be sustained and discerning, it must be rooted in a direction relation to God in prayer, Scripture, and daily attentiveness, not only for the activist, but as part of the goal for the community for whom he or she works. Without a deep spiritual vision, realism about grace and freedom, and sustained discipline, no community can have an adequate foundation for the fullness of life to which we are called. It is hard enough to find our way with these. Without them, we lose our orientation to the discerning knowledge of how to be in the world but not of it: alone and together. This knowledge for Christians begins with faith in God for us as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is sustained through time in a rhythm of appreciation and active ministry, both in solitude and with others who form the various dimensions of community to which we are called.

      -Tilden H. Edwards. Living With Apocalypse: Spiritual Resources for Social Compassion (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1984), 5.

This passage speaks of Spiritual Discipline(s) and the dangers of extremes. One could be said to be the extreme of the Individualist. This person focuses on self in relationship to God, with little focus others in the community of faith, or the broader human community. It might be said that this person sees spiritual discipline in emphasizing the first half of the Great Commandment (love of God) without understanding its implications in terms of the second part (love of neighbor). The other extreme is that of the Activist. This person is so focused on helping others (love of neighbor) that the foundation of that love (love of God) is wanting.

Spiritual vitality rejects these extremes and brings the two aspects of the Great Commandment together.

PDL: My Brothers and Sisters

For some people, PDL stands for “Purpose Driven Life.” Here in the Philippines, the initials have come to stand for “People Deprived of Liberty.” The following is a short reflection written by Chaplain German B. Ramboyong Jr. on his work with PDL.

November 25, 2016

People: Prisoners are people. When they were imprisoned, their nature did not change. They are still humans. They do not become aliens, different from us. It is easier for us to judge them than reach them. However, our Lord Jesus taught that if we visit them we do it for Him (Matthew 7:37-40). He even calls them “my brothers and sisters.” This is why I carry on: without Jesus I will not be able to be a person to the “my brothers and sisters” in the jail. Or as I would like to put it, “I visit and serve Jesus in the prison every Monday”.

Deprived: Yes! They are deprived of many things. They cannot work and provide for their love ones. They cannot sleep, eat, and drink well. They can not exercise their rights. It is as if everything has been stripped from them either voluntarily or by coercion. On the other hand, by visiting and talking with them I give them the privilege to exhale bothering thoughts, disappointments, worries, and inhale some encouragements and exhortations. Their cells, cases and circumstances may be suffocating but at least they have the luxury to breathe out. And I have joy in my heart to be such a channel of life for some of them.

Liberty: In some degree, the prisoners have independence. They are not totally constrained. They can choose to be confined physically or psychologically for quite a long time or they can opt to be free. Some can be quick and others in a slow progression. But still others are worse-‘ reclusion perpetua’ or life imprisonment. Yet there is hope. I heard how Jesus not only liberated some prisoners in the physical realm but more importantly, in spiritual realm.

As you have noticed, the words “people”, “deprived” and “liberty” are in bold face and they are in the beginning of each entries, because for me each word signifies my general learning regarding pastoral care in prison. I find it awesome that the government has designated the term “People deprived of liberty” to replace the notorious label “inmates” in reference to the prisoners. But I still would like to just follow the phrase of my Lord Jesus and call them “my brothers and sisters”?

Year in Review

 From Typhoon Yolanda to Our New Office.

NOV 13-14. Disaster Response Training. PBTS (25 trainees approx.)

NOV 15. BOT Meeting, Cafe Will.

NOV 16-20.  Tacloban Rescue Trip  (Partnering with Montecastos)

NOV 17-24. Ormoc/Tacloban DR Trip #1 (PBTS/Bukal partnering) Alexis

NOV 18. Disaster Response Training. AV-STM (15 trainees)

NOV 25-30. Iloklan Disaster DR Trip. (6)

DEC 2-9. Cebu/Ormoc DR Trip. (10)

DEC 17-19. Bohol DR Trip. (Bob, Celia, Joel)

DEC 27-28. Project Leyte. Crisis Defusing/Debriefing Training (PNA, PGCA, Zero Distance, Nightingale Builders) (Celia, Jehny, Cori, Bart)

JAN 13-20. ACCE Addiction Training (Prof. Dev.) (Celia, Jehny, Sera)

JAN 30. Intentional Conversation Mini-Workshop (38 trainees approx.)

JAN 30 – FEB 10. DR Trip to Tanauan and Isabel, Leyte. Project Leyte. (Celia, Becky, Cori, Bart)

FEB 20. AV-STM Partnership meeting

FEB 21. Intentional Converstion Training. SNN. (20 trainees)

FEB 22. Mediation Training. (25 trainees)

FEB 25-MAR 10 History of Pastoral Care (Prof. Dev.) (Celia)

MAR 12. PMHA Training (Prof. Dev.) (6)

MAR ______ PNA Trip to Samar (Cori)

MAR 20 – APR 9. Bohol/Visayas DR Mission Trip (Alexis)

MAR 24. First Aid and Baggage Cart Training. AV-STM. (22 trainees approx.)

MAR 26. Start of CPE Summer Intensive (6 trainees) Half Unit.

MAR 30 – APR 2. CPSP Plenary. (Celia)

MAR 31. Intro to Historical/Clinical Pastoral Care (12 trainees)

MAY 26 – JUN 4. Tacloban/Iloilo Disaster Response/Rehab/DVBS

MAY 7-9 Life Coaching Training (Prof. Dev.) (Becky, Joel)

JUN 2 – JUL CPO (6 trainees)

JUN 19. Models of PC and Christian Counseling. (25 trainees)

JUL 15. PGCA Quarterly Training (Prof. Dev.) (Celia, Becky, Alexis)

JUL 18. Special Education Training (Prof. Dev.)

JUL 22. Pastoral Diagnosis training. (18 trainees approx.)

AUG 28. Baggage Cart training. (13 trainees approx.)

AUG 31 – SEP 1. Visioning Weekend. (13 trainees approx.)

SEP 18. Healing the Shame that Binds You Training (12 trainees approx.)

SEP 20. Shepherding Seminar (Prof. Dev)

OCT 4 – 13/28. Korea Pastoral Care Trip. Training several groups. Pastoral Care, Disaster Response, Missiology

OCT 11. Parenting Congress. (Prof. Dev.)

OCT 14-18. Ruth Foundation Palliative Care Training (Prof. Dev.) (Cori, Jehny, Becky)

OCT 16. Children’s Counseling Training (Prof. Dev.) (Alexis)

OCT 17-19. Ambassadors of Hope Workshop/ CPSP. (Prof. Dev.) (Celia, Becky)

NOV 15  BOT Meeting

NOV 18-20.  LCSBC Convention

NOV 23-25.  Move into our new Office!!!

October (2014) Updates

We have had a very busy time lately with Bob and Celia Munson, and Dr. Paul Tabon ministering in Korea, along with Cori, Jehny, and Becky getting training. But now that we are back… we can catch our breath a tiny bit in preparation before upcoming activities.

November 8.  Board of Trustees meeting. This is the 5th year anniversary of Bukal Life Care. We thought about having a big celebration… but decided to wait for the grand opening of our new office.

November 18-20. LCSBC Conference. We don’t have a primary role in it… although we may be working with some participants. However, we will have a booth there.

<November 29. Disaster Response Orientation seminar is postponed. It will be integrated into “Intro the CPO program, and the Leadership Symposium in 2015>

December 13-15. Pastoral Care trainings and meetings with Dr. Lawrence. (And staff Christmas party).

January 5-8. Lide-Walker Conference. We will have a booth, and we will have our grand opening for our new office.

January 19.  Start of Intro to Clinical Pastoral Care (CPO). 6. 100 hours (50/50). Integrating hospital chaplaincy orientation, disaster response chaplaincy, and (LIFT) palliative care.

March 23. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE/T). Summer intensive unit. 11 weeks (400 hours) starting March 23.

May.  Leadership Symposium… focusing on Disaster Response for ministers. <Tentative>