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Study Concludes: 85% of Business Success Attributed to “Soft Skills.”

Kak

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I was reading the WSJ this morning, among other interesting things going on right now, they had a video talking about business dining etiquette. In the video she mentioned this study. https://www.nationalsoftskills.org/the-soft-skills-disconnect/

It is obvious that taking steps to be a well rounded individual is paramount to business success. Dining etiquette being just one of the many things, like dressing the part and not looking like fool.

Obviously none of this matters if you have a business where you don’t interact with other humans. It certainly does apply to a leadership driven venture of carefully considered resources.

The little stuff matters.

Here is the dining video. DISCLAIMER! It is stupid: Eat, Drink and Impress With These Dining Etiquette Tips

However stupid the video, it got me thinking. What else do you think falls into this category of soft skills? What have you observed?
 

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JonnyC

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I agree 100%. I think business people generally benefit from being well-rounded generalists, with an emphasis on soft skills like leadership, communication, etc.

In terms of specific nuances that can hamper people, two issues that I see a lot of are interrupting or finishing sentences in a conversation; also not listening to what a person is saying, just "waiting for their turn" to brag or pump themselves up.
 

MTEE1985

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Schwabs CEO has a great story about the importance of the little things. In one of his final business classes his professor handed everybody a blank sheet of paper and said “I’ve taught you all I can about formulas and management. The most important thing in business and your final exam is this: what is the name of the lady who cleans this building?”

As simple as it sounds these little things really add up. Say hi to people, compliment them on something, or just smile and nod. You don’t need to be an “extrovert” to be a good person who is likeable and dramatically improve somebody else’s day.

I’d also add: hold doors, please and thank you always.
 

AgainstAllOdds

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Good video, but I wouldn't be able to make it past one dinner with that lady.

Also - who decided that you can't stir your coffee or tea after putting sugar in? Who decided that? Proper etiquette is going from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock and then having random bits of sugar in your drink? Call me a caveman, but I'll sit that rule out.
 

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I agree with @AgainstAllOdds. Additionally, I find this too much or “over-thinking”. I would belief that table manners would be enough. Keeping yourself clean, don’t eat like a slob, close your mouth when eating, don’t talk with your mouth full, etc...

I would think that it’s too much to remember to face your forks at a certain clock hand when finished. Not that what she’s saying is wrong, but I just think people are overthinking it.
 
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Kak

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Good video, but I wouldn't be able to make it past one dinner with that lady.

Also - who decided that you can't stir your coffee or tea after putting sugar in? Who decided that? Proper etiquette is going from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock and then having random bits of sugar in your drink? Call me a caveman, but I'll sit that rule out.
It was a little much. I agree. I landed there with the coffee stirring thing too.

The napkin and tines down use of utensils advice was good. I think she left out the part about using the outside utensils for the first course and work your way in.

There are better resources than her for this. As someone that practices good table manners, I must say, I will audibly tell the waiter or waitress no thank you if they want to fill my glass, not put a hand over it. Also, I do notice when someone has crap table manners, but I think getting this 70 percent right is about the sweet spot of not being viewed as uptight in our increasingly informal world.
 
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SamRussell

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I agree 100%. I think business people generally benefit from being well-rounded generalists, with an emphasis on soft skills like leadership, communication, etc.

In terms of specific nuances that can hamper people, two issues that I see a lot of are interrupting or finishing sentences in a conversation; also not listening to what a person is saying, just "waiting for their turn" to brag or pump themselves up.
Those things irritate the crap out of me.

Paying attention to what someone else is saying and using that to lead a conversation is another 'soft skill', along with talking about yourself when someone asks a question without turning it into a boring monologue.
 

NewManRising

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I generally listen more than I talk when I am having a conversation with a client. Many of them have a lot to say, and so, I prefer to allow them that time to go off and get it all out. Some people just want to be listened to.

I try to find ways to connect that make me appear that I am like them or share a similar experience. Anything that can build rapport and enter into a more friendly or personal relationship.

Saying please and thank you go a long way too. Get into the habit of using these two words.

Just remember, no matter who you're talking to, they're only human. Learn to understand peoples' needs and treat them with respect.

Be known as the problem solver, the peace maker, the listener, and the guy/gal that gets things done.

Last but not least, if you make a mistake, OWN UP TO IT right away. For a lot of people, they tend to want to hide it, lie, or even blame something or someone else for a mistake.

I made a mistake this morning with one of my clients. I sent an email out to only part of her list and not the full list the email was intended for. I tried to correct it and made the mistake again.

I panicked a little, but then I just sent my client a message explaining what happened and told her that I will fix it. I even sent out an apology email to the people that received multiple emails with the same content.

She didn't get mad or want to fire me. In fact, she was happy with my efforts and even encouraged me.
 

Kruiser

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Interesting to say the least. What else do you think falls into this category?
Kindness, which includes but goes beyond simply having good manners. The most successful senior execs I have ever known are genuinely kind. Not just smooth. Not just polite. Truly kind.

Also, regarding table manners, it is like a secret club. We certainly live in a more informal world and most people will never notice if you don't follow the more esoteric formal rules. So, it is easy to think "that's a bunch of BS and no one cares about this stuff."

But don't think "I don't know or care about these rules, so no one else knows or cares about these rules." That's not true.

Those who do know the more formal rules DO notice and will give you bonus points for following them. This is subtle and the judgment is largely unconscious, but it does happen and does make a difference. You can follow all the more esoteric table etiquette rules without being obnoxious and without drawing any attention to yourself.
 

Real Deal Denver

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Schwabs CEO has a great story about the importance of the little things. In one of his final business classes his professor handed everybody a blank sheet of paper and said “I’ve taught you all I can about formulas and management. The most important thing in business and your final exam is this: what is the name of the lady who cleans this building?”

As simple as it sounds these little things really add up. Say hi to people, compliment them on something, or just smile and nod. You don’t need to be an “extrovert” to be a good person who is likeable and dramatically improve somebody else’s day.

I’d also add: hold doors, please and thank you always.
Oh, this is just too good to pass up.

I think exactly that same way. I know the names of every server we have when we eat out. I make it a point to call them by name before they say anything. Something like, "Hello Elizabeth - we're back. We had such great service from you last time that we asked to be in your section again!" People do appreciate that a lot. We also tip more than is expected so they know we mean it and it's not just talk.

Here's the story. At one place that we frequently go out to, I address every server by their name, all the time. One server is named Sandra. She never shows any appreciation of any kind. She is black, and I suspect she thinks I am trying to "kiss up to her" in some way so I don't feel so guilty about being white (which I am). It goes nowhere, of course - but I am still nice to her every time. At that SAME restaurant, there is another server that I treat the same way - and you would swear that we are royalty of some kind. We get such good service, that I feel guilty about it. We BOTH feel appreciated - and that's the way business is supposed to work.

Every time I see Sandra, I kind of detest her. But I always treat her as nicely as I can. Nothing changes. That's fine - that's her miserable little life - and I'm not going to allow hers to affect mine.

I so wish I could have taken that exam, as I would have LOVED the look on the face of that professor when I said, "That's it? That's the best you got? Alright then. It's Pamela. And she has been doing this for seven years and loves her job because she can work at her own pace with nobody supervising her." I know that about her because I care about people. I'd love to see that professor choke when he heard that!

I saw a sign on someone's desk many years ago that said, "Be kind to people. Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort." That stopped me right there in my tracks, and I have never forgotten it. That was a life-changing moment.

But. I'm not a Saint, and I'm not incredibly nice to everyone. I sent a blistering email earlier today to a business that desperately needed to be hit in the face by an angry customer - and my email did just that, and much more. The last paragraph of their long overdue lecture was one word: Bye.

Make a difference. Do more than anyone expects, do it better than anyone expects, and be kinder than anyone expects. And if you should take a stand, let them know to never mistake kindness for weakness. Never let them forget you. You'll be doing the next customer (me, or your mother) a big favor!
 

Bekit

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What else do you think falls into this category?
Good Diction.

People unconsciously judge each other's social class by the way we pronounce words.

It goes along with dressing well and having good table manners. Like @Kruiser said, it's kind of like a secret code. Those who don't know the code don't know they're breaking it. Those who do know the code are silently approving or disapproving of others, depending on their performance.

Success in business depends on stuff like this. No one would ever tell you, "You weren't hired because you pronounce the "th" sound like a "d." The hiring manager probably wouldn't even consciously think that this influenced their decision.

But think about the times you call customer service and you get someone with an Audrey Hepburn accent, compared to when you call customer service and you get... some accent that makes you facepalm.

Being well spoken, dressing the part, and having impeccable manners can gain the respect and acceptance of people far above your income bracket.

Side note:
That video! :inpain:

When I was a teenager, I read Etiquette by Emily Post in its entirety.

There is so much grace and poise and effortlessness in REAL manners.

In my opinion, the woman on the video was a bit lacking. She looked stiff, sounded abrasive, held her glass with the most angle-knuckled poses, and just came across as annoying. Totally the opposite of the intent behind good manners.

As to the content of the video, a couple of points:
  • There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of fine dining in a restaurant where the waiters know the code, and the moment you lay your fork and knife parallel to each other with the handles at 4:00, the plate is whisked away. Plus, if you are a slow eater, there's a comfort in knowing that your plate will not be cleared for as long as you are still keeping your silverware in that upside-down "V" across your plate while you are working through your last few bites.
  • Stirring your coffee in a circle invariably creates a bell like chime as your spoon comes into contact with the edges of the glass. Stirring back and forth from 12:00 to 6:00 is the only reliable way to do this silently and still mix in your sugar.
 

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lewj24

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As to the content of the video, a couple of points:
  • There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of fine dining in a restaurant where the waiters know the code, and the moment you lay your fork and knife parallel to each other with the handles at 4:00, the plate is whisked away. Plus, if you are a slow eater, there's a comfort in knowing that your plate will not be cleared for as long as you are still keeping your silverware in that upside-down "V" across your plate while you are working through your last few bites.
  • Stirring your coffee in a circle invariably creates a bell like chime as your spoon comes into contact with the edges of the glass. Stirring back and forth from 12:00 to 6:00 is the only reliable way to do this silently and still mix in your sugar.
Thank you for explaining this. I'm interested in learning more about these things but when I was watching the video all I could think was, "Why?" or, "This seems pointless." But once you explained it, it all makes sense.

Before your comment I wouldn't have tried it.

Now I want to try it.
 
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Kak

Kak

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Good Diction.

People unconsciously judge each other's social class by the way we pronounce words.
Didn't vs "dinunt" always gets me. No one that says "dinunt" notices that they do it.

Interesting vs ineresting is also a bad one.

I hear these often come out of the mouths of educated, high income people. I can't help it. I notice.
 

BlackMagician

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Those who do know the more formal rules DO notice and will give you bonus points for following them. This is subtle and the judgment is largely unconscious, but it does happen and does make a difference. You can follow all the more esoteric table etiquette rules without being obnoxious and without drawing any attention to yourself.
@Kruiser i have the habit to eat with my own hands. I don't use spoon to eat rice/veggies etc. I eat with my fingers. The normal way. Is it bad table manners? I eat like that in-front of clients, coworkers, parties, Events. Everywhere.
 

Roli

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This is pure BS... also she says at the beginning "job success", not business, real slowlane stuff. Concentrate on the way you pick up your knife and fork but ignore the fact that you're in a soul sucking job.

Also - who decided that you can't stir your coffee or tea after putting sugar in? Who decided that?
Probably the same person who decided that you should fold your napkin in half before putting it on your lap :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
 

Roli

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Didn't vs "dinunt" always gets me. No one that says "dinunt" notices that they do it.

Interesting vs ineresting is also a bad one.

I hear these often come out of the mouths of educated, high income people. I can't help it. I notice.
It wouldn't be the sole reason you stop dealing with someone though would it?
 

Roli

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She is black, and I suspect she thinks I am trying to "kiss up to her" in some way so I don't feel so guilty about being white (which I am).
Or she has a million other things going on in her life that have nothing to do with you...
 

Roli

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Sorry for the multiple posts, but this one has just hit me.

Who did this survey, and how did they do it? I'm imagining questions such as this.

1. Would you hire somebody who folded their napkin the wrong way?

a.Yes.

b. Maybe.

c. I would rather employ Hitler.

2. You are out at dinner with an employee, they go to the bathroom, but don't pinch their napkin and leave it on the chair, indicating that they will be returning. Do you;

a. Say nothing, as who cares about a napkin?

b. Make a mental note not to give them the promotion you had earmarked them for?

c. Fire them on the spot?

3. You are having a business lunch with a potential hundred million dollar client, and after they finish their meal they leave their cutlery in a sloppy looking "X" on the plate, instead of a nice neat upside down "V". Do you;

a. Sit there silently fuming, because you've never been so insulted in your life?

b. Immediately tell them that you are no longer interested in their business?

c. Say nothing, whilst secretly imagining bludgeoning them to death for such a terrible faux pas?

I mean I could go on... :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
 
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Kak

Kak

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@Roli

The post was about "soft skills" not napkin folding. The woman in the video was nuts. Your argument is straw.

Would I hire someone who says dinunt? For an unskilled position, sure. For a high paying representation of my company, no. Would I fire them for starting to say it? No. Would I subconsciously take other employees more seriously? Yes.

Also, what matters for interactions with bosses and superiors also matters for customers, investors, and general leadership.

@Bekit had the best post in this thread.
 

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MTEE1985

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Many of us won’t be in the fine dining etiquette scenario, we know that, and what @Kak is asking is what are other ways you can get to know somebody?

I can’t recommend golf enough.

9 holes and 2 hours later (or topgolf for an hour) you’ll have a pretty good idea if they’re patient, considerate and trustworthy.
 

broswoodwork

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My old boss, who owned a chain of furniture stores, would fart at the restaurant table, smoke cigarettes at his desk, and blow his nose onto the floor. He was worth $35 million when he died, and I hope to be on his level someday.
 

Bekit

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The post was about "soft skills" not napkin folding.
I was curious to see what the other "soft skills" were in the research you linked to, so I pulled up the original document.

Lots of interesting quotes. And yeah, it's not napkin folding.

"...personal qualities such as common sense, integrity, resourcefulness, initiative, tact, thoroughness, accuracy, efficiency, and understanding of men..."
"Therefore it seemed necessary to consider the question whether this emphasis on technique is producing a new and higher type of engineer, or whether the engineering profession still stakes its faith on the fundamental thesis that personal character is, after all, the real foundation for achievement."
"...fifteen hundred engineers, who replied in writing to the question : What are the most important factors in determining probable success or failure in engineering? mentioned personal qualities more than seven times as frequently as they did knowledge of engineering science and the technique of practice. A second circular letter stating this result was then sent to the thirty thousand members of the four large engineering societies, and each was asked to number six groups of qualities headed respectively Character, Judgment, Efficiency, Understanding of men, Knowledge, and Technique, in the order of importance which he gave them in judging the reasons for engineering success and in sizing up young men for employment or for promotion. More than seven thousand engineers replied to this request, and their votes placed the Character group at the head of the list by a majority of 94.5 per cent, while Technique was voted to the bottom by an equally decisive majority."
[quotes from Chapter XVI: THE PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER]

When it comes down to it, etiquette, diction, or the way you dress are just shorthand for the things we're really looking for, such as, "Is this a person of good character? Can I trust them?"

The shorthand isn't infallible, but it's a visible reflection of what can't otherwise be seen at first glance. Character can be feigned for a while. But your habits of how you eat and speak will show up right away. And a lot of times, it's a dead giveaway.

It goes back to the saying, "How you do anything is how you do everything." If you're sloppy in your speech, habits, dress, and manners, you'll probably also cut corners in your work.

Many of us won’t be in the fine dining etiquette scenario, we know that,
When I was in college, I heard a speaker one time who said, "Here I was, just a farm boy, and I found myself dining with world leaders. I had no idea of the protocol!"

That stuck with me. You never know when life might catapult you into a whole new sphere that you're totally unprepared for.

Yeah, it's rare to be in the fine dining scenario. But if you DO find yourself there, you'll only have the etiquette at your disposal if you have prepared beforehand. It's not something you'll be able to frantically google on the spot.

In that moment, no one will publicly humiliate you for bad manners. The people around you will be too polished to let you know they ever observed anything. I mean, if you did something truly barbarous, you might coax out an arched eyebrow, a half smile, and some eye glances. But for the most part, good manners will just be invisible, blend in, and create no objection in anyone's mind. Bad manners will cause people around you to make mental notes that you're not quite a good fit, you might be an embarrassment, or you haven't been well-trained. And that can hurt your chances at advancement.

i have the habit to eat with my own hands. I don't use spoon to eat rice/veggies etc. I eat with my fingers. The normal way. Is it bad table manners? I eat like that in-front of clients, coworkers, parties, Events. Everywhere.
It depends where you're located. I have eaten with my hands in Morocco and it was perfectly acceptable. However, if you are in North America, some people will be truly scandalized by this. The more elegant / high stakes the situation, the more you should restrict this behavior.

In general, you should avoid touching food with anything but your silverware. Do not touch any food that will make your fingers wet, gooey, or sticky. Definitely do not lick your fingers during the meal. If they become sticky or wet, either use your napkin or excuse yourself to wash your hands.

In a fine dining situation, here are a few exceptions where you CAN touch food with your hands:
  • Your bread - you should break off one bite-sized piece of bread at a time with your hands. Butter it with your butter knife and then put it into your mouth with your hand, rather than buttering the whole slice or roll of bread and biting off a mouthful.
  • Veggies on a veggie platter with dip - items like baby carrots or broccoli florets can be picked up with the fingers. These would be generally too hard to stab with a fork anyway, and could lead to disasters if you attempted to stab it and it got away and shot over to the other end of the table. Depending on the formality of the occasion, you can also pick up fruits with your fingers, such strawberries or grapes, but on a more formal occasion, I'd probably steer towards using my fork for these.
  • Other finger foods: If the hostess has eaten it with her hands, it's fair game for you to follow suit. So watch others closely for how to handle items like shrimp, deviled eggs, or chicken legs. When in doubt, put it on your plate, cut it up, and use your fork to lift it to your mouth.
2. You are out at dinner with an employee, they go to the bathroom, but don't pinch their napkin and leave it on the chair, indicating that they will be returning. Do you;

a. Say nothing, as who cares about a napkin?

b. Make a mental note not to give them the promotion you had earmarked them for?

c. Fire them on the spot?
The point of using the napkin to signal that you are coming back to your chair isn't for your boss. It's for the server. There's nothing quite so disappointing as leaving the table to go to the bathroom and coming back to find that the server has taken away your plate. This has happened to me. I was like, "Oh boo! That was good food, and I wasn't done with it yet!"

Same thing with the parallel silverware. You wouldn't want to inadvertently signal to your server by cluelessly setting your knife and fork precisely in the position that tells them, "I'm done eating," and they take away your plate while you're gone.

Not losing a delicious plate of food is good motivation for me to know the code.
 
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Roli

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The post was about "soft skills" not napkin folding. The woman in the video was nuts. Your argument is straw.
Excuse me for not realising you post videos that have nothing to do with your point.
 
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Kak

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Many of us won’t be in the fine dining etiquette scenario, we know that, and what @Kak is asking is what are other ways you can get to know somebody?

I can’t recommend golf enough.

9 holes and 2 hours later (or topgolf for an hour) you’ll have a pretty good idea if they’re patient, considerate and trustworthy.
Speaking of golf. My brother and I were talking about golf etiquette yesterday. He played golf with a friend that is new to the game, on a Saturday, at the busiest course in our club...

He said holding up others and the lack of just general golf etiquette was embarrassing and quite frankly stressful to him. Searching for a ball for 10 minutes, teeing up a second with people waiting right behind, stuff like that. I couldn’t agree more, took a state representative out last month, same deal, somehow you can just tell who does and doesn’t belong to a country club.

It is different with my wife for instance, because I can just hurry her along, “we are just going to go up here,” “hit by me.” That kind of thing.

When someone you’re playing insists on 4 putting their 12... It’s just rude.

Do you agree that there is a factor of unspoken etiquette polish that comes from being a regular golfer?
 
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I was reading the WSJ this morning, among other interesting things going on right now, they had a video talking about business dining etiquette. In the video she mentioned this study. https://www.nationalsoftskills.org/the-soft-skills-disconnect/

It is obvious that taking steps to be a well rounded individual is paramount to business success. Dining etiquette being just one of the many things, like dressing the part and not looking like fool.

Obviously none of this matters if you have a business where you don’t interact with other humans. It certainly does apply to a leadership driven venture of carefully considered resources.

The little stuff matters.

Here is the dining video. DISCLAIMER! It is stupid: Eat, Drink and Impress With These Dining Etiquette Tips

However stupid the video, it got me thinking. What else do you think falls into this category of soft skills? What have you observed?
It's those little things that make you part of the group. When I was a trophy wife to an executive level consultant, everyone working for the corp. wore the same clothes and shoes -- even on their days off. It was scary. I felt like I had been thrown into a vat of vanilla ice cream. I think that all went back to them going to prep school, wearing the uniforms and then going to the same college together. My husband at that time was the exception to all of that. He was allowed to be a little bit different since he was genius expert and they needed his insights and brain power.

A lot of these rules and traditions are unwritten. They are inclusive and therefore, exclusive. There are a lot of these little clicks and classes in the world. I've seen people pretend to be a member only to be found out and then cast out like last year's Christmas trash. Fake it until you make it can a person's undoing.

I tend to be a very busy outsider who becomes an honorary member through invitation by the group. That gives me the license to not have to faithfully follow the rules and traditions of the group. I try to add value when I do show up and join in with their activities. That also gives me the chance to lend a different perspective on the situations as they come up. I usually do that by asking questions and finding clarity about their group thinking. Humans are herd animals and each group has a pervasive mindset that hasn't really been challenged. I try to lend another point of view without being too offensive.
 
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Stargazer

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I had to Google 'soft skills' to see what on earth you were talking about.

We called it character in England. Mostly taught at school.

Resilience (tricky Latin, Algebra, Sport) Don't give up!

Cultural Awareness (History, Music, Art, Religious Studies, Geography)

Teamwork - part of and leading (Sports)

Communication skills (English Language and especially English Literature)

Do your best (Sport and Exams)

And of course Manners as Manners Makyth Man (Really common courtesy and appropriateness)

Etiquette is more the little rituals a group has concocted over time.

If you are not of the group there is no need to pretend you are. 99% of decent people in any group will explain the Etiquette if they know you are new to it or see you are struggling.

Dan
 

natew

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Be willing to accept constructive criticism, and to tolerate other people’s opinions. You may think you’ve hit the nail on the head, but others will often find things that you simply didn’t consider. And that’s totally fine. They’re not trying to insult you or belittle your work; listen to their perspectives, and thank them for any help that they provided.

Give credit where it’s due. If you’re at a meeting where you’re expected to report results, and another person helped you achieve them, mention that person by name and acknowledge his or her contribution.
 

Roli

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He said holding up others and the lack of just general golf etiquette was embarrassing and quite frankly stressful to him. Searching for a ball for 10 minutes,
10 minutes looking for a ball is the height of rudeness!

somehow you can just tell who does and doesn’t belong to a country club.
I don't belong to a country club and would never behave like you mentioned above.... Hitting a second safety ball is fine if you ask those behind you as this will save you looking for your first wild shot.
 

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