Recently, while at work and observing the interaction between people, I began to think that medicine is a lot about social skills. Of course competence in diagnosing and treating disease is crucial. Most people who are board certified in their specialties have the competency needed in diagnosing and treating disease. From the time one enters medical school to the time she graduates from residency, she has taken countless exams that test competency in medical diagnostics and therapeutics. She has also been observed by many attending physicians and has taken many clinical exams that observe her interactions with patients as she diagnoses and treats basic medical conditions.

Social skills are such an important part of medicine, yet they are very poorly taught. [And in case you are not in the medical field, social skills are crucial to every aspect of life. They are priceless to every area of calling or service.]

When they are taught, you may be given a lecture during which you are taught skills that you can use to work with patients. That method at best is very superficial if it works at all.

The way to acquire social skills is not to focus on teaching or learning social skills. If you do that, it often comes off as empty, scripted, fake, or even manipulating when you use such social skills on people, and people can sense it.

The right way to teach and learn social skills is from the inside out. That’s the hard way and the only way. You learn social skills by learning to love people, value every single person in front of you, to honor everyone you encounter regardless of who they are or how they treat themselves.

Learning social skills are like learning to be humble. If you focus too much on being a humble person, you might just end up achieving the opposite. But when you focus on placing high values on others, treating them as they were more important than you, placing their interests first, valuing their opinions, etc, then you will naturally become humble without trying to be humble.

You can’t simply teach people social skills by giving them a lecture or an exercise to practice.

Modeling helps to inspire people to desire to learn social skills, but in the end, true change happens deep at the level of the heart, at the level of our beliefs about people.