The Most Important Life Skill You’ll Ever Learn

Not an Irish Civil War Prayer Vigil after all!

Monday night my son told me that times have changed and suggested that his life in seventh grade will be different than the one I experienced three decades or so ago.

I told him that technology and fashions had changed but that people hadn’t and that some life skills could be applied now, then or a thousand years forward or backwards because people are people.

That is because the most important skill I have ever learned is the ability to get along with others.

Old Head, Young Shoulders

I used to hate hearing that you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders because it felt like my dad or grandfather usually mentioned it when I had done something wrong, but that probably wasn’t the case.

And perhaps it is why this time I thought it but didn’t say it out loud because my son wasn’t going to relate to it in this situation.

But when I think about my personal and professional life I see multiple situations in which the ability to get along with others played a more significant role than whether someone was the most skilled athlete or employee.

When you are forced to spend large amounts of time with others your ability to get along with them plays a significant role in your happiness.

What We Say Versus What We Do

Throughout my career I have seen numerous examples of how this skill plays out in the professional world. I have seen highly skilled individuals get let go because even though they were very good at what they did they didn’t know how to get along with others.

That inability to go along and get along caused interpersonal chaos in the office so in the interest of team chemistry they were let go.

And I have seen it go the other way. I have seen people who were not very good at their jobs find a way to hang on because they were so well liked people wanted to help them. They wanted to keep them around.

It is something that sticks out in my mind because I have often heard friends who have their own businesses say they only hire the most skilled people but if you ask them about chemistry and the impact one person can have you find they will take/keep someone who has less ability to do the job and but more ability to get along over their counterpart.

Are There Exceptions?

Are there exceptions?

Of course there are and there always will be. People like to think they act based upon logic and rational thought but we often don’t.

Sometimes we know we should fire the family member or friend who is causing trouble but we don’t because there are other reasons. Sometimes we keep the person who isn’t family or friend for other reasons too.

But exceptions don’t change the reason why it is important.

Group Dynamics

I suppose you can say the genesis of this particular post comes from recent experiences with a dad blogger community I hang out with online.

Most of the time it is a great group with great guys who support each other and we have had a good time building friendships but sometimes it gets contentious.

Some of that is because there are some challenges that come with communicating via words on a screen and not in person. We miss verbal clues, don’t see the smiles or hear the sarcasm.

That can cause misunderstandings.

But some of it is because some fellows have more challenges getting along with others and they don’t recognize the impact of their actions upon how people respond to them.

Same As It Ever Was

From a parenting standpoint it is an interesting conversation because I want my children to understand the importance of getting along with others but to also understand the line between getting along and getting taken advantage of.

But ultimately I don’t worry about things being so different now I can’t understand how kids in school are today. We didn’t have iPods and cellphones but the interpersonal stuff, well it is the same as it ever was.