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In Action: A Look at Soft Skills Examples in Pop Culture

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| April 19, 2022

There are life lessons to be learned from how celebrities use their soft skills to navigate life— both in positive and negative situations.

Perfecting your soft skills is an iterative process. For most people, developing skills like empathy, active listening and self-awareness can be a lifelong endeavor. Read on to learn how soft skills are noticed in mainstream media and what it means for your own practice of personal refinement. 

Observing Pop Culture for Examples of Soft Skills

If you’ve been binging TV during the pandemic (like many of us), chances are you’ve heard about Ted Lasso.

Briefly, Ted Lasso is a fictional American football coach who is hired to manage a British soccer team. Even though Ted doesn’t know much about soccer, he focuses on building team culture and developing each player on the team to be the best person they can be. Not only is the show entertaining and full of inspiring life lessons but it’s also a great place to look when talking to someone about soft skills.


What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that encompass a wide range of personality traits that are often considered the most important and influential on determining your relationship with other people, as well as your general outlook on life.

The most common soft skills include:

  • Communication skills
  • Conflict management
  • Listening skills
  • Empathy 
  • Positivity
  • Self-awareness

Ted Lasso has become such a cultural phenomenon that the main character’s life lessons have been cited as inspiration by real-life NBA coaches, like Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who told The Wall Street Journal in 2021 that Ted Lasso “should be required watching for coaches.”

One of the most important lessons from the show, cited by the WSJ: “Tyranny is out. Empathy is in. Coaches are getting the most out of players by relating to them, not dictating to them, while keeping them accountable without coddling them.”

That is the perfect example of soft skills. By using empathy and relating to others, NBA coaches (and hopefully others) are learning that soft skills can be used to great effect when it comes to nurturing and developing a positive relationship with someone, especially when the ultimate goal is to inspire and motivate.


The Trouble With Ellen DeGeneres

There are countless examples of good and bad implementation of soft skills in pop culture, every single day. While “cancel culture” is a fairly new term in today’s cultural lexicon, it’s also a prime place to start examining how someone’s soft skills could have been improved in a particular situation.

Two years ago, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was accused of creating a toxic and hostile work environment, which was a shock considering she had built her multimillion-dollar brand on the motto “be kind” and with lavish giveaways and acts of charity.

Former employees accused her of putting on a show for the cameras because when the cameras were off, they said she led her show with racism, fear and intimidation.

Shortly after the expose by BuzzFeed, DeGeneres apologized to her staff and to her viewers, noting that “being known as the ‘be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in. The truth is, I am that person you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that.”

Eventually, she ended up canceling her own show after producers struggled to book advertisers and celebrities and saw a big dip in ratings.

There are two key lessons from the Ellen DeGeneres incident:

  1. When you lead a team of people, it’s critical to practice soft skills like listening, empathy, conflict management and communication. 
  2. Even though soft skills can be some of the most challenging to develop, they can be learned. And, as Ellen noted in her apology, soft skills require practice, which means you may be constantly “working on all of that.” 


The Straightforwardness of Billie Eilish

The perfect example of a celebrity who is the epitome of someone who is constantly working on her soft skills is Billie Eilish. Eilish, a singer-songwriter who first gained attention in 2016 with her debut single “Ocean Eyes,” does not shy away talking about the work she puts in to develop her soft skills.

She is the first artist born in the 21st century to top the Billboard 200, and she’s reinventing and redefining how a female pop star looks, sounds and behaves. Vogue noted in a 2020 article that “through Eilish’s artistic vulnerability, whether in the form of macabre videos or lyrics exploring the inner dialogue of her own suicidal thoughts, she’s created a musical outlet for a generation that’s ready to talk about mental health and the once-overlooked stressors of modern society.”

It’s clear from her songs and the way she communicates that Eilish doesn’t shy away from practicing soft skills like self-awareness, critical thinking, empathy and communication when it comes to openly talking about her struggles with mental health, body dysmorphia and anxiety.

She has explained how, through therapy, she has found a way to be more comfortable speaking her mind and being out in the public eye.

Eilish isn’t perfect. In fact, she would be the first person to tell you that. But it’s her ability to truly see herself and her relationship with others around her that makes her a shining example of someone who is aware of soft skills, knows how to use her soft skills and is working on them each and every day.


Clearly, not everyone has fully developed their soft skills. It can be a work in progress. But for those who recognize the importance of soft skills and work on honing them every day, life may just be a little bit easier to navigate. Soft skills can help lead you to more engaging, emotionally stable and productive relationships with others.

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