The fact that they are called soft skills cause many of us to dismiss them. They are not as easily quantifiable as technical skills, but they are just as important.
Soft skills are skills that help with communication and understanding our fellow humans. Now these are essential to any profession but as stated above, they are not as easily quantifiable. A résumé can tell me if you are fluent in many languages, can create a balance sheet, and have an understanding of Google Analytics. But does writing ‘excellent communicator’ tell me anything? It should.
There are many soft skills; here are three which are essential and should not be overlooked.
Are you able to communicate effectively to others? How are you with speaking to a group? What about one-on-one? What about communicating with people from different cultures, without seeming ignorant or offensive?
I was at a restaurant recently with a group of friends. We were seated a table away from the bar but wanted to take advantage of the happy hour special. One of the group heard that we had to be seated at the bar to receive the happy hour price; this was not true. She asked our waiter if we could receive the happy hour prices.
“No“, he replied.
“Can we order at the bar and bring our drinks to the table?”
“No”, he again insisted.
Needless to say, we were taken aback by his rudely brief response. This is a good time to mention, that some rules in the workplace can be bent in order to treat people more humanely and foster better work environment or customer experience. Knowing which of those rules can be bent without throwing the place into chaos and creating unnecessary risk is a skill all on its own!
Even simple things like choice of words are marks of good communication. If your customer needs to sign a receipt, and does not notice, an appropriate response is, “if you could please sign…” I’ve heard “you need to sign” which comes off as rude, even if it is unintentional.
This is a big one. How does one understand the emotions of self and others, in order to successfully conduct business?
Two aspects that stick out to me are empathy and managing relationships.
There are managers/supervisors who have not shown empathy to their juniors; this of course, causes tension in the workplace. These same managers/supervisors will not know how to manage staff. If there are issues with team collaboration, do not expect them to book an escape room for the employees to develop team-building skills.
However, someone with emotional intelligence looks upon colleagues as human beings and not as robots meant to perform functions. Think about how you would cultivate emotional intelligence to help you grow as a professional.
People do not generally learn negotiation in formal education; if so, it is a rare occurrence. In any aspect of business and life, you will have to negotiate something. To refer to the skill of negotiating as a soft skill seems to dismiss its importance.
How would you negotiate closing a deal with a client? How would you ask your employer for a raise?
Look for opportunities to improve your negotiation skills; they both need good communication and emotional intelligence.
These skills may not be easily noticeable, but as an employer, one must decipher whether potential candidates have these skills. These skills are what differentiate average employees from leaders.
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