How Do I Develop My Soft Skills?

Soft skills allow a person to become a more effective communicator and listener.
It's important that an employee demonstrates proper etiquette both in and out of the workplace.
Active listening can be extremely helpful in creating better communication.
Article Details
  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Soft skills are job-related techniques and interactions that help you become a more effective communicator, listener, teacher, and so on. These skills are separate from technical skills that help you accomplish the operations and procedures of your job. Developing soft skills is important to interact more effectively with coworkers, and ostensibly help you do your job more efficiently. To start, it may help to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses when interacting with coworkers and colleagues; this may mean doing a self-evaluation or having someone else do that evaluation for you.

Improving your soft skills often starts with working on your listening capabilities. Listening effectively to others helps you identify problems and successes more quickly and effectively, and it often prevents miscommunication that can lead to inefficiency. A good listener will focus on extracting key information from the speaker; he or she may go so far as to take notes while someone else is speaking. Alternatively, the listener can take mental notes and attempt to recap the main points when the person is done speaking. Many people have a tendency to simply think about what they will say once the speaker is finished, which means those people did very little listening at all.

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It may be possible to take a class on developing soft skills if you have trouble doing so on your own. Such classes are likely to help you work on your listening and speaking skills, as well as your social awareness. An instructor may help you learn how to accept criticism graciously and interpret that criticism for self-improvement. The class may also focus on less obvious soft skills such as creativity: engaging your creative mind can help you become a more valuable team member and may help you approach problem-solving differently.

Etiquette and grooming are important soft skills that should not be ignored in lieu of other, more complex skills. Your presentation at work, during meetings, and even outside of work can have a tremendous impact on how coworkers and colleagues interact with you. Do your best to maintain a clean appearance, and try to learn about proper etiquette both in and out of the workplace. Manners can go a long way toward presenting yourself as an understanding and capable individual, and most people will feel more comfortable around you when you present yourself as a clean, well-dressed, and polite communicator.

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bear78
Post 3

My biggest issue is taking criticism positively. I don't take criticism well and I want to change that. I realize that I can't do everything perfectly. I also realize that it can be very beneficial if I use criticism to improve myself. I just wish I knew how to not feel insulted when I am criticized. I guess I need to detach myself and understand that it's not a criticism of me, just a criticism of what I did and that can be changed.

ddljohn
Post 2

@fify-- You are absolutely right. I am guilty of this and I know it. In fact, once, a colleague called me out on it and I felt awful and very embarrassed. I knew I was doing it but didn't think it was a problem. I never paused to think how he feels or what message my attitude sends. I realized that he was very upset about it and since then. I make extra effort to actually listen. I try never to cut off people. I let them talk and finish what they want to say. And then I speak.

Listening seems like such a simple thing to do but as you said, we don't do it. The worst part is that we don't even realize we're not listening. We're too consumed by our own thoughts.

fify
Post 1

I think that the biggest problem people have when it comes to soft skills are listening skills. People love to talk and most do it very well, but few are willing to listen and truly listen attentively. Even when people are having a mutual conversation, I often observe that people pause for a moment appearing to listen, and look for an opportunity to cut the other person off and say what they want to.

We concentrate too much on expressing ourselves and too little on listening to and understanding others. But listening is an important aspect of effective communication. When people know that they are not being listened to, they feel that they are not taken seriously or respected. It's frustrating and it certainly doesn't help that relationship.

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