Dictionary.com defines soft skills as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Different from technical skills, soft skills are the things that round out your personality and truly show your potential to get a job done well. Without them, we would be a bit robotic, untrustworthy and possibly not have enough perseverance to complete projects, win clients, collect unpaid invoices, you name it! It is really like a well-choreographed dance where both technical, hard skills need to be in step with the softer side. Here are the top soft skills and why they are so important to possess:
Positive attitude There is a saying “Your energy introduces you before you even speak.” People can feel what sort of attitude you have before you have uttered a word. Positivity will be the opener of doors, the keep of jobs, the maker of friends and clients. It will also help keep you going through all the storms and problems you encounter along the way.
Dependability This is really just follow-through. You will be where you said you will be when you said you would be there. Or your project will be delivered on time. They key here is you do this time-and-time again. That is dependability. A business needs to know it can count on its people. Those who are asked to lead a team, a committee or event have all proven themselves to be dependable and have shown they can come through.
Loyalty Showing that you will stick around and be worth the time and money to invest in you is what loyalty is all about. If you act towards your employer or clients as you do toward your friends and family, it will not go unnoticed and hopefully will be rewarded.
Good work ethic No matter what the job, you always do your best work. Hard work no matter the size of the job is the foundation to a good work ethic. Good work ethic can never wane.
Teamwork Ability to work as part of a team requires putting the needs of your team before your own. When working together toward a mutual goal, those with strong teamwork skills work hard to achieve those goal(s) and compromise when necessary.
Solid Communication skills Most important of all, however, is communication and— surprisingly— not everyone has mastered this most valuable soft skill. Honed by being observant and through practice, communication skills can set you apart from the rest.
It really is more important than having a high IQ and creativity. In most industries, you need to be able to work well with others. More than the teamwork listed above, communication is vital to success in all aspects of business. And it includes quite a bit:
Know how to listen. Only by listening can you understand the point of view of the other person and more completely prepare the most effective answers that will yield the best results. If people feel heard, they are more likely to do business with you.
Make sure your body is not speaking another language. If your gestures and posture are not reflecting what you are saying, listeners will not agree with your message, may find you untrustworthy and may walk away. If you are speaking confidently, firm, yet kind and clearly, your face must not show doubt, worry, fear. Your body must not be closed up or jittery.
Look ‘em in the eye. Making eye contact cements your honesty and sincerity. It is reassuring when someone looks at us and their eye are not darting around the room, looking at the floor or over our shoulder. To be believable, make eye contact.
Speak slowly. Don’t slow down to the point of boredom. Use balanced cadence when you speak. If you aren’t rushing or boring people by going too slowly, your listener will be more apt to listen to you.
Be engaging. Communicate so that people want to talk to you. Use words they understand which will appeal to their emotions and logic. Tell some good stories to sell your idea, product or service. When you tell an interesting story, listeners become more engaged. Using humor and being clever will help you stand out. And if your stories are real, people will see your experience and be convinced you know what you are talking about. Plus, a witty story usually beats an endless spreadsheet of statistics.
Let people participate. Let them ask questions. They learn and you become more valuable. Open question and answer sessions always help prove authenticity.
Be positive. This can be conveyed through words and a smile. This helps people feel comfortable and motivated to take to you as well. It goes back to that positive attitude mentioned earlier.
Always improve. If needed, practice this most important of all soft skills to perfect it and over time it will win you more hearts and minds and clients.
Soft skills really are vital to being a well-rounded person and an exceptional employee, boss or leader. Best of all, they can always be honed and perfected throughout your daily life and business interactions. They really are all about communicating effectively. Who wouldn’t want to work with someone who is positive, dependable and can weave a good, authentic yarn? Not too many people.