Have you ever judged a doctor based on their “bedside manner” – the way they interact with and speak to their patients? If you answered yes, know you’re likely not alone. A doctor’s bedside manner – whether good or bad – is a result of their soft skills. These skills impact how you interact with others, and there’s a chance someone else could be judging you similarly. Soft skills aren’t always easy to learn, but they’re just as important as any other skill.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are those skills that go beyond the technical, including your behaviors, personality traits, and interpersonal skills. Though not tangible, these skills still affect how you perform your job, and how you interact with others. While your soft skills can be improved, they are not as easy to train as hard skills.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
When training employees on how to perform specific job functions and tasks, you are providing them with training on hard skills. These skills are quantifiable – these are skills that can be evaluated before hiring and easily trained, such as computer skills and writing. Hard skills can be learned, practiced, and improved over time while soft skills are more difficult to obtain and improve – though it’s not impossible. Both soft and hard skills are necessary for success in nearly every industry.
Important Skills for the Workplace
Soft skills can fall into several different categories, all with varying degrees of importance. Here are several soft skills that are important for all employees to have.
Communication: Regardless of your industry or position, communication will come into play at some point during your day. Effective communication skills, and the ability to express your thoughts and opinions appropriately are important for success.
Listening: In addition to good communication skills, it’s also important to be a good listener, which is often harder than it seems. When someone is speaking you should be focused on what they’re saying and really hearing and understanding them, not multi-tasking, responding to messages, or whatever else may keep you distracted.
Teamwork: Unless your job is 100% remote with no interaction with any other employees, at some point you will likely need to work as a team. Whether you’re coordinating with others to complete a project, reach a sales goal, or just working within a department, you are part of a team. The ability to work well with others as part of that team is important not only for the success of your company, but your individual success as well.
Critical Thinking: This is a highly appreciated soft skill, and it can be applied in many situations. Critical thinking is your ability to apply reason and logic and analyze information effectively. Strong critical thinking skills lead to better problem solving which can help you work more efficiently. This could make you a much more valuable employee.
Adaptability: We’ve all experienced a lot of change in recent years. Your ability to adapt and be flexible in the face of that change is another valuable soft skill. The ability to adapt to change with a positive attitude will allow you to approach and assess situations calmly and help lead your team through the change successfully.
How to Improve Your Soft Skills
While training in soft skills isn’t always easy, growth and improvement is possible, if you’re willing to put in the work.
Practice, practice, practice: We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” While perfection may be an unattainable goal in this case, practice is still one of the best ways to improve your soft skills. By putting your skills into practice – participating in teams, paying attention and listening in meetings, communicating often – you can help sharpen those abilities.
Pay attention to everyone around you: If there’s something you know you’re not skilled at doing, or not comfortable with, observe how others perform that skill. Watch how coworkers communicate with each other or work together on projects.
Take advantage of every opportunity for improvement: It really all comes down to being open to grow and improve your skills. If someone provides you with feedback that could help you grow, take it in the spirit offered and learn from it. When opportunities present themselves to utilize skills that may not be your strength, take advantage of that opportunity to practice that skill and improve it.
Soft Skills and the Culture of Convenience
Improving soft skills can be a life-long learning process, you just need to remain committed and willing to learn. For more information on their importance, check out episode 81 of the Culture of Convenience, “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills.”