The term soft skills can be a bit of a turn off for some people. For those of us who have spent so much time honing specific skills to be able to do our jobs, the idea of working on things like communication doesn’t spark joy. However, even for people attracted to hard numbers, soft skills can come in handy.
Brushing up on some of these might mean the difference between advancing your career or taking your small business to the next level.
Yes, you need them
If you ever find yourself working with people, knowing how will be necessary. While there aren’t any solid numbers to quantify how competent you are in most soft skills, they are still important to develop. Improving emotional intelligence helps improve interpersonal relationships, reducing friction between people whether they work for the same company or not.
These skills are hugely beneficial for a small business to help you attract new clients and retain them. In larger companies, these are the traits that allow departments to get anything meaningful done.
Being competent in these areas will also allow you to be confident. Being insecure, anxious, or negative often accompany you if you are engaging in an activity where you don’t excel. This can undermine your good intentions and limit your opportunities.
The good news is that even if you haven’t spent any time developing these skills, you aren’t starting from square one. Soft skills rarely fall into that all or nothing category. You’re probably on a spectrum, and you already have strengths and weaknesses.
Thinking analytically and problem-solving likely rank in your top soft skills as someone who values numbers and logic. Being able to tackle issues quickly and effectively is highly valuable, and not something that everyone is equipped to do.
Sometimes the solution to a problem means having the right industry knowledge or hard skills to power through a situation. Troubleshooting issues within your department are the most likely to fall into this category.
Other skills that fall into this category are evaluating the abilities to evaluate a problem by thinking critically, analyzing it, and making a clear decision.
When brute force isn’t the answer, you’ll have to rely on extensive research, a touch of resourcefulness, and a spark of creativity.
Creativity is one of those divisive terms when it comes to describing our characters. We often classify ourselves as creative or not, right-brained or left-brained, black or white. However, you don’t have to have a passion for painting to be a creative person. Being creative can hide in plain sight, and everyone is capable of it if they try.
Creativity doesn’t have to be grand. It can be as simple as finding novel ways to accomplish everyday tasks. It can mean adding small improvements to established processes. You don’t need to have a total industry-disrupting idea to be creative.
The main requirement for being creative is to be curious. If you are open-minded and are willing to learn from others, that is the most useful form of this artsy skill. By being willing to consider new possibilities, take new risks, and experiment, you are already creative.
While soft skills like problem-solving come naturally to the logically inclined, intrapersonal skills are probably the ones you are most firmly convinced you lack. The idea of talking with people is either the best or the worst part of your job, depending on what kind of person you are.
Thankfully there are useful communication skills that don’t involve public speaking or settling heated conflicts.
Concisely writing down your ideas is an incredibly useful skill, especially as more and more of our world is taking place remotely. Reading non-verbal cues is a skill that most of us never train, but that we can use every day.
Having the ability to empathize with our coworkers will allow you to see things from their perspective. Working on your empathy can allow you to see problems and get ahead of them before they become catastrophic.
Of course, there are the active communication skills. Speaking with confidence alerts others that they should listen to what you have to say. Negotiating is key for talking with clients or getting that raise you deserve. Resolving conflicts and squashing them before they get out of hand keeps office politics in check. And finally, there’s public speaking. You may not ever need to speak in front of people as a subordinate, but if your career goals involve having others working under you, it’s not a bad idea to learn how to pick up a microphone without panicking.
Speaking itself may not be the most important communication skill we can develop either. Active listening might add more to your work outcomes than being charismatic ever could. So often, that is what we want, for another person to hear what we are saying. If you can listen, it’s likely the only communication skill you’ll ever need.
Flexing at work
Other skills that will help with your career are critical but are even harder to pin down and next to impossible to teach. Having the ability to adapt to any situation that work and life throws at you will be critical to your success. Having the work ethic to follow through on the tasks you are given, and the goals you set will be useful every day.
Other soft skills that are indispensable include:
- Being consistent and paying attention to detail
- Being organized and dependable
- Being flexible and cooperative
- Being optimistic and persistent
- Being motivated and enthusiastic
- Being results-oriented with a growth mindset
- Showing integrity and patience
Soft skills may not be what you think about when you are filling out your resume, but they are nonetheless essential to acquire for you to be the best you can. Finding people with strong soft skills is a rare thing, but as with most things in life, the rarer they are, the more valuable they become.
Even for those of us programmed to love the hard pull of logic and numbers, adding a few of these to our tool belts will help us reach our goals.