Gratitude, Humility, Empathy, Care, and Kindness are essential elements when fostering “soft skill” development. If these deeper phenomena are not considered, soft skill work in coaching and counseling becomes an exercise in pantomiming behaviors versus real client change. This course provides you with a 5-part model for thinking more deeply about how you foster soft skill development in your career services practice.

Soft skills is a term that is used so ubiquitously that many may hesitate to define it even though they have a deep sense of its meaning.

Read this concise article that provides a useful definition of the term, differentiates it from hard skills, and operationalizes the term by identifying specific soft skills .

The focus of this course is the development of client capacities upon which soft skills are learned. To use a gardening metaphor, it matters whether or not a seed is planted in a bed of fertilized soil, sand, or gravel. Similarly, it matters whether a client is practicing soft skills with you, a career services professional, at a shallow level or from a deeper more meaningful place.

My goal for this class is to give you a different on-line course experience. One that encourages you to ask questions that have remained unasked, to think deeply about your own experiences of work, and to shift your career services practice to better incorporate ideas that are foundational to human flourishing and happiness as they relate to soft skill development.

The primary audience for this course is any career services professional (e.g., coaches, facilitators, human resource professionals, counselors, psychologists). The principles forming the foundation of this course call upon the fields of career development, positive psychology, and neuroscience research.

At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

1.      Understand how gratitude is a key reinforcer of happiness and thus central to fostering healthy career development behavior.

2.      Connect humility to gratitude and apply these concepts to fostering “soft skills” with clients.

3.      Deepen your work with empathy as it allows career clients to navigate career development and workplace processes effectively.

4.      Identify care as a skill, particularly effective care as it helps clients cope with career stress and the gig economy.

5.      Focus on kindness as an outcome of coaching and counseling, particularly kindness towards self and one’s community of care.

This course has five major lessons. In each you may be asked to read text or documents, view web links videos, internalize what you are learning when you write in your course journal, and answer questions about the course content on a worksheet. When you are asked to perform any of these activities, this will be listed in red.

As you move through the course, you will track your progress by answering questions on a worksheet. This worksheet will be submitted to the instructor at the end of the course to verify your earned continuing education units. Please download the worksheet now and save it to your computer. As you go through the course you will be instructed to answer the questions that pertain to each lesson.

We know so much more each and every day about how humans’ function as well as how to build our capacities to do so while thriving!

On Gratitude

Let’s jump right in with this excellent video from Soul Pancake on the importance of gratitude in finding happiness. Please view the following 7:13 video below:

I wanted to mix up my approach for those who are taking all six of my courses in the Reframe Your Career Game curriculum. This video kicks us off to a great start for two important reasons:

1.      Career work is about finding happiness in life. At least, I see this search as the root of all client help seeking behaviors.

2.      Emotional states are scientifically connected to important career development factors such as decision-making, self-efficacy, and workplace conflict.

My hunch is that these two reasons are connected which means a discussion of fostering gratitude in career practice is an important element of career services work. In other words, you came to the right place.

Let’s take a moment and put this idea to the test. Now, I want you to keep a journal throughout this course. This can be an existing journal you use, a document you keep on your computer desktop, or a sketchbook you choose to doodle in throughout this course. The important thing is that your journal works for you AND that you use it!

Many of the journal prompts will come from me as written text but for this first entry I am going to rely on our friends at the WellCast Channel on to explain your journaling assignment in this 4:43 video below:

Now, please take 5 minutes and write your first gratitude journal entry.

Take a mindful moment and check in with yourself. Do you feel a difference in your own emotional state after journaling? How would you feel if you contacted someone included in your gratitude reflection and shared with them? You may do this if you choose.

Please follow through and write journal entries throughout the week as prompted by the video. I also encourage you to continue with these check-ins on your mood or emotional states as it connects to this gratitude activity.

Now, our exercises in this class are not a controlled experiment thus they are not reliably scientific. The emerging field of neuroscience is helping accelerate our understanding of happiness, well-being, and the human experiences that foster them.  Let’s take a moment and look at some of the relevant existing science.

Please read the article below that describes some of studies referenced in the video above in greater detail as well as many more that support the science behind fostering gratitude.

I want to try something here before we watch the final video in this first lesson. I am going to have you follow a short-guided meditation that fosters gratitude. Before pushing play on the video below, please do the following:

1.      Tune out distractions by closing your door/moving somewhere private, closing your email other distractions on your computer, etc.

2.      Make your body comfortable. You may do this by sitting squarely and straight in your chair, moving to a seated position on a pillow, or laying down comfortably.

3.      Take off your shoes, cover yourself with a blanket, or do anything else that makes you feel physically comfortable.

I am not a guided imagery or meditation expert, yet I do incorporate a short gratitude meditation that I will reference in the closing dialogue below. Before learning about my approach, please view the full 6-minute guided meditation found at the link below.

Now, I would like to guide you through the first dialogue for the course. I use the term dialogue versus lecture or presentation because I hope to engage you in a dynamic process of personal exploration and learning. Please read a sample score report for the Career Beliefs Inventory found here. 

Familiarity with this will help you better understand some of the content of the dialogue.

As a reminder, please have a writing utensil and paper (at least one blank) with you before you begin. This first video is a longer than the rest in this course (29 minutes) but I think sets the stage for future lessons. Please view the first dialogue using the link below.

Now that you have finished with Lesson 1, answer questions 1-3 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 2!

On Humility

How are you thinking about your professional career services practice after the Class 1 session? Has anything shifted for you? Are you more aware of the processes by which gratitude impacts your own happiness?

Let’s begin Class 2 with a thought-provoking video on humility using the Tao Te Ching’s Philosophy of Water presented by Raymond Tang. His 10-minute presentation digs into career phenomena as well as soft skills. View it here.

Hopefully that got your brain juices flowing!

Many will think that a sense of humility fits Eastern philosophy and culture but might question its necessity in the West or competitive fields of business. Maybe the Forbes magazine Coaches Council’s article on humility and its benefits from 2017 will fill in some of our gaps. Please read this article.

Now I am beginning to think, much like I did with gratitude, that the importance of humility is self-evident… that I should slap my head and shout, “Of course! Humility and gratitude are part of successful career and workforce development.”

As a social scientist, self-evident is no replacement for actual evidence. I would like to describe an article by Kruse, Chancellor, Ruberton, and Lyubomirsky (2014) titled An Upward Spiral Between Gratitude and Humility. This peer-reviewed article describes 3 research studies exploring the relationship between gratitude and humility.


Findings of this quantitative study of 50 adult participants (25 wrote a letter of gratitude to someone kind to them and 25 were the control group) suggest that expressing gratitude in this way promotes humility thus decreasing self-focus and further promoting humility. Limitations in sample size and assessment reliability were noted, a second study was conducted.


Findings of this quantitative study of 229 adult participants (110 wrote a letter of gratitude while 119 were the control group) again finding that gratitude seems to increase humility while increased humility predicts a greater capacity to experience gratitude. In other words, there is a bidirectional relationship between gratitude and humility according to these studies.


This diary study of 48 undergraduate students which confirmed the influence of gratitude on humility and vice versa in the same participants over time. In general, increased humility the day prior to measuring gratitude has a positive effect on gratitude capacity while increased gratitude the day before measurement had a positive effect on humility. This seems to confirm the idea of an upward spiral hypothesis whereby gratitude and humility are mutually reinforcing on one another over time.

In total, the three studies use both experimental and naturalistic methods to support three primary theoretical ideas:

1.      Gratitude is an anteceded “elicitor” of humility.

2.      Humility is a state that fosters gratitude more readily.

3.      The two (gratitude and humility) seem to reinforce one another.

The full article can be read here. 

Hopefully, you are convinced by the anecdotes and science that humility is closely related to gratitude AND are important functions in developing deep soft skills.  Let’s dig a little deeper as you view the dialogue video for this lesson lasting 15 minutes.

In this Lesson 2 we learned about humility, how it undergirds soft skill development, and its relationship to gratitude. In Class 3 we will tie this directly into empathy development and working.

I would like to end by sharing on of my favorite speeches of all time by David Foster Wallace. If you recall the opening video in this Lesson, then the title This is Water will make sense as we tie up Lesson 2. I encourage you to think about your life, the life of others, and the role humility plays as you view this video.

All the while remember this is water, this is water…

Now that you have finished with Lesson 2, answer questions 4-6 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 3!

On Empathy

Welcome to Class 3 where we will add to our soft skills toolkit by focusing on empathy! How is class for you thus far? Are you spending the necessary time to self-reflect? Can you find movement in your own thinking and perspective? Keep working at it either way…

 Ok… let’s start today back with our friends from Soul Pancake who use real science to communicate that science to a general audience in a fun, nonthreatening way. Today the topic is Empathy. View the 7-minute video below and I will catch you on the other side:

Neuroscience continues to be the bedrock of this total course, supporting the key concepts of gratitude, humility, and now empathy. This is the place in the lesson where I need to make the case for empathy to you my fine students… so read this an excellent article called The Case for Empathy by Elizabeth Segal. 

 Let’s take 5 minutes and write an entry to your journal using these questions. How do you experience empathy in your own mind’s eye? Is it easy for you to think about how another is experiencing or feeling when they speak to you? Do you believe you were naturally born as empathetic as you are or did you learn?

It is common for people to believe that empathy is a trait that one is born with; scientifically this would mean that most if not much of the reason for empathy would be genetic. This is a commonly held assumption yet more research suggests that our genes account for 10% or less of the variance, or reason for empathy. This suggests it can be seen as a skill and thus taught. Read the short newspaper article below describing this research.

Let’s dig a bit further in to the science and read a short 3-page article describing this science.

Now… there is a part of my brain that is telling me that this has been a lot of reading or a lot of science for some of my students. You might be asking why this is important or why it might be important in today’s world as a career services professional. Let’s go to this excellent Ted Talk that describes this science in video format and ties it into the digital age. The presenter is a cognitive neuroscientist named Katri Saarikivi presenting the talk Empathy in the Digital Age in Helsinki. View the talk which is 15:29.

Let’s use the PowerPoint video this session to dig a little deeper into how we might apply empathy skills into our career services practice. View the dialogue below.

This content rich lesson session ends soon. I would be remiss if I did not allow you to (re)watch the most viral empathy video in history. This segment from the great Brené Brown has been set to a wonderful cartoon. View this and enjoy it and your day.

I hope you are looking to learning about Care in Lesson 4. Now that you have finished with Class 3, answer questions 7-9 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 4!

On Care

Welcome to Lesson 4, On Care. Like Gratitude, Humility and Empathy I see Care as something better thought of as a skill than otherwise. Too often in my community work (mostly in diverse, urban communities) I have seen people show up to help on their own terms without thinking about the needs or cultural differences in their community. The results can be at times disastrous. Thinking of caring as a skill affords us the opportunity to slow down, think, learn, reason, and adapt our care for others to be effective.

In other words… caring should be about the needs of cared for and not the needs of the one providing the care.

Let’s look at an example… view this a short video about how to care for a person with a specific disability.

Now, did you know “how” to provide help to a blind person? If so, this means you learned this skill from being taught, observation, and/or practice.

I would like to make a point of defining two terms often used interchangeably as different and importantly distinct from one another. The science I will draw on for this lesson is Compassion Research. Compassion is the concern for the suffering and misfortune of others (see why the gratitude > humility > empathy trail was important leading up to this?).

I will propose that compassion is necessary for care, but alone it is NOT sufficient for effective caring.

Caring then can be defined as the work or practice of looking after others. Notice that compassion is the concern for others while caring is the work or practice of looking after others. Caring therefore requires knowledge and skill as demonstrated in the first video of this lesson.

Are you with me? My point is that effective caring requires humility (accepting that you don’t know and need to learn) and empathy (the ability to understand what others need). Otherwise, your expression of compassion (acting on it) would really be you expressing care for yourself (your point of view on what is needed) while pointing that care at someone else.

Moving forward, let’s begin with the necessary precondition of caring, which is of course compassion. Here I am going to rely on this delightful talk by Dr. Jamil Zaki a leading neuroscience researcher of compassion. View the video which is 17:11 in length.

If there is any science nerd in you (like there is in me) you would have found this engaging talk scintillating!

I want to now transition from the why? question – why do we feel compassion and want to care for others – to the how? Question – how do we do this effectively.

First, let’s focus on your own growth and development. Please have your journal ready as you read this article about developing emotional agility.

Take 10 minutes and write about your own emotional agility. Do you feel like you are most often on the line or off the line of your emotions? What type of work do you have to do in this area?

In her book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Dr. Susan David identifies four key concepts in emotional agility:

      Showing Up – facing your thoughts and emotions.

      Stepping Out – detaching yourself from your thoughts and emotions.

      Walking Your Way – knowing your core values and using them as a compass to determine your direction.

      Moving On – taking small steps to changing your habits instead of grand “change plans.”

Write some more in your journal, how are you at these four emotional agility tasks?

Keeping all you have learned in this lesson about compassion, effective caring, and emotional agility please view the short dialogue found below where I will briefly discuss the Theory of Care model in the context of soft skills such as Adaptability, Critical Thinking, and Time Management.

I want to close this lesson with a commercial from Asia that I just love. Enjoy.

Please spend some time before the next lesson sitting with your own compassion, be curious about your compassion instincts and think critically about your impulses to act on them. Do you know what you need to know and how to show effective caring?

Now that you have finished with Lesson 4, answer questions 10-12 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 5, the final one of the course!

On Kindness

My sincere hope is that you have reached this stage of the journey looking forward to this final lesson, on being kind.

Let’s do something a little different to begin this final class… let’s get your journal ready and take a kindness boomerang together. View the video below:

Now, take 5 minutes and write in your journal about 3 or more times you have forwarded a kindness done for you onto someone else.

Was this difficult for you, easy, or somewhere in between?

I would like to begin by offering my own perspective on kindness. This may be the most controversial thing I say in this course. I do not like it when people are nice!

Before you cancel this class and ask for your money back, hear me out. To be nice is to be pleasing and agreeable (Merriam-Webster). The acts of being pleasing (to act as you think the other would wish you to act so that they are pleased; to give pleasure) and agreeable (to act as you think the other would act so as to be in agreement; to consent) are both actions of interpretation about what the other person wants. This sounds good on the surface but what if the person wants to eat too much sugar, or gamble their paycheck away, or something else that is not good for them. In career services, what if they want to deny the fact that they are not being paid properly for their work?

Kindness is often defined as being generous and considerate. I see this very differently than being nice. Here is an example:

I speak a lot in public, probably more than 100 times per year. If I had a salad for lunch right before a speech and had gotten a big piece of lettuce stuck in my teeth (as we all have at some point) – and you were the last person (having just met me) to see me 2 minutes before going on stage… what would you do? I have observed these occurrences many times (another common example is a zipper being unzipped in line at a check-out counter).

Many people will be nice. They would not tell me about the lettuce, thinking about how terrible it would be for me to be told this right before going on in front of so many people. In reality, they are thinking about how awkward they feel about telling me.

Now, the kind thing to do would be to tell me so that any embarrassment I might feel would be in front of one person instead of 1000. Being nice is most often about how we feel about a situation, not about the feelings of the other. Kindness is acting with great care for the other.

Dr. Vicki Whiting, a leadership scholar, identifies Kindness as a Competitive Advantage in the TEDx Talk below by talking about career phenomena and business factors. View her video below. Length 17:12.

Dr. Whiting identifies kindness as the integrating factor across many variables for workplace happiness including gratitude, humility, empathy, and compassion. Now Dr. Whiting doesn’t get to dig into all of the variables that would recommend kindness therefore read this article that digs a bit deeper into the science.

My hope is that you are feeling awash in kindness as you prepare for the final dialogue video in this course. View the video below.

Now that you have finished with Class 5, you are finished with GHECK Check I the course! Answer questions 13-15 on your worksheet and submit it to your instructor, Dr. Brian Hutchison to verify your course completion.

Thank you for choosing this course, giving your time to consider the content, and investing in your development for the sake of your clients.

Please be sure to complete this evaluation before you leave the course.