Soft Skills

How to Improve Soft Skills

Soft skills revolve around personal relationships, character, and attitude. By developing these skills, you can increase your work performance, build stronger relationships, and work toward earning a promotion. If you are finding that some of these soft skills do not come naturally to you, you need to learn how to improve soft skills so they'll become a natural reflex for you in dealing with people every day.

Step: 1

Develop communication skills. Your goal should be to communicate clearly through written, oral, and nonverbal communication. Start simply by being aware of how others feel when they are around you or are talking with you.

  • Make eye contact. Acknowledge someone else's presence by looking them in the eye, especially if they just walked into the room or you pass them in a hallway. Look at them when they are talking to you. Do not let your eyes wander around the room.
  • Monitor your body language. Show interest by sitting up and leaning forward. Resist the urge to tap your fingers or foot. Mimic the posture of the person with whom you are talking to create a comfortable environment.
  • Practice speaking. This includes both public speaking and conversational speaking. Be conscious of your pace and volume when speaking. If you are uneasy in personal relationships, practice with a close friend or family member. If you are nervous about speaking in public, volunteer to give presentations within a smaller group and work your way up to a larger one.
  • Develop your writing skills. Proofread your emails, letters, and notes. Learn correct spelling and word usage. Vary your sentence structures. Be concise instead of elaborate.

Step: 2

Practice active listening skills. Listening requires focus and self-discipline. We listen for many different reasons: to understand instructions, to empathize with another individual, or to judge whether a plan is good or not. Regardless of the reason you are listening, there are several things to keep in mind.

  • Paraphrase and ask questions to learn more about what someone is telling you. This demonstrates interest and focus. It also helps you understand the situation.
  • Take notes when appropriate. This shows that the subject matter is important to you. Practice taking notes in team meetings or staff training sessions.
  • Do not interrupt other people. Respect them by letting them finish saying what they are saying.
  • Pay attention to the other person's body language. Observe their posture, tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), gestures, and facial expressions.

Step: 3

Build relationships. Interpersonal skills are important in the workplace, especially since so many organizations are designed around teams and departments. Seek to build friendships with peers, supervisors, clients, and business partners.

  • Befriend colleagues. Greet them when they get to work. Invite them to lunch or coffee. Talk for a few minutes in the break room as you are getting a drink. Participate in work events like softball clubs, staff lunches, and training days. Stay away from gossip. It only destroys relationships.
  • Learn to manage conflict in a healthy way. Address issues with the individual(s) involved in a private manner. Approach the discussion in a nonjudgmental, but assertive manner. Ask questions and try to understand their side of the story. Work together to find a solution.
  • Network with people inside and outside your organization. Ask people about their jobs. Share a bit about what you do. Note connections and ways you could potentially help each other. Exchange contact information and be sure to follow up with them.

Step: 4

Practice leading. Leadership is simply influencing other people. As such, leadership skills can be used by any employee at any level in the organization.

  • Observe your own supervisor and note how that individual leads your team. Find positive things that person does and emulate them in your own work.
  • Practice leading in small group discussions by asking your teammates questions and bringing quieter members into the conversation.
  • Set the example for others by displaying a positive attitude in difficult situations. Remain calm in moments of crisis. Talk about concerns one-on-one with your supervisor instead of in front of the entire team.

Step: 5

Take initiative. Demonstrate responsibility and enthusiasm for your job by striving to go the extra mile. This starts by finishing work without constant reminders from your supervisor.

  • Do tasks without being asked by someone else. Look around, see what needs to be done, and do it. If a coworker has a large project and you have some time on your hands, volunteer to help.
  • Seek more challenging work. Strive to develop your technical skills. Learn more about your organization. Ask a coworker about their department. Take a class, read a blog, or subscribe to a magazine in your field of work.

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