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This blog has been designed most for the benefits of my students. I am interested in spiritual intelligence because I believe it leads to happiness and resilience. If you want copies of my published research (conference papers or articles in journals), feel free to contact me.

Ridhwan (

My other blog is:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why do we need softskills?

My son, now 9 years old, asked me why I was writing a blog about softskills. The question, as naive as it may be, is actually quite a smart one.

First, many people seem to think that they can secure a job because they have the right academic qualifications. Over the last 10 years of teaching, I have realized that employers look for three things:

a) A positive attitude
b) Good soft skills
c) Decent academic knowledge

The whole concept of "soft skills" is a bit vague. This includes basic speaking and writing skills, grooming and so forth. That is not what I am interested in. My perception is that many people have these "basic skills" but cannot progress because their overall perspective is negative.

Of course, everybody knows the importance of being "positive". My experience is that "being positive" is not enough. People have to learn specific skills (active listening, cloud diagrams, logical diagrams)in order to "break out" of the constraints that they have created for themselves. However, once people manage to "shift" their perspective, their whole behaviour becomes much more positive. Unfortunately, many of the "motivational" programs on TV or Radio are almost useless. They deal with generalities and do not allow individuals to figure out why their perspective is misleading.

Friday, October 16, 2009


A few weeks ago, one of my 'blog readers' observed that I did not update my blog very often. That is true and it reflects my personal views about blogs.

First, many blogs are written in a hurry. People make assertions without knowing whether they are true or not. As an academic, I am used to writing papers that are reviewed by my peers. In other words, before writing something. I ask myself, "Is this true or is it false? Can I prove it?" Many times, I realize that my opinions are just that: opinions.

Second, I am a researcher. In May, I wrote that I would be interested in using problem solving skills to help parents and teenagers work out their problems. Although I am not a counselor, I have been interviewing students who have problems at home and I try to figure out ways to advise them. My conclusion is that the root cause of the problem often starts with the parents. The 'problematic attitude' of the students is simply a symptom of a deeper problem. However, as this research is still ongoing, I don't want to write about it in my blog (yet) although I can give a few hints:

- Communication problems between parents and teenagers is not about "communication". It is simply about two people that have a different paradigm of the world. Resolving the "gap" between parents and teenagers is primarily about understanding the differences in core assumptions.

- Differences between paradigms are often based on false assumptions about cause and effect. These assumptions almost always include one "negative fantasy" [I don't make up these words. These are expressions that other researchers use]. A negative fantasy is a fear that unless you control something or somebody, things are going to get "out of control". That fear is irrational but prevents people from growing.

By using mapping techniques (such as ECs and CRTs mentioned in my May posting), you can put on paper the assumptions that people carry in their heads. That allows one party (for example, the parent) to understand the other party (for example, teenagers) perspective. Ironically, people need to start drawing pictures before they can start communicating.

People who are familiar with soft skills - whether communication skills, leadership skills or whatever - will realize that this is the most difficult part of soft skills development. The other stuff is really easy in comparison. But unless Malaysians start understanding the paradigms that limit their personal and professional growth, they will continue to feel frustrated.

Another soft skills session