SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
Having the right education and knowledge of a product is no longer enough to land you your dream position. Having the right set of behavior skills necessary to get the job done, is in higher demand than usual.
With any job, there is a particular set of skills that are required to get the job done, and to get it done well. However, no matter what career field you are, they all share the requirement for certain behavioral skills.
Having great skills such as having excellent organization and being results oriented are fantastic to have and will most likely give you an advantage over those that don’t, but don’t overlook social skills! While, learning these skills is entirely possible, knowing them beforehand will give you a leg up on the competition when vying for that position you have been desiring.
Many people are so focused on being the best at job skills that they don’t realize which behavioral skills they should be developing that will greatly benefit them in the workplace, with clients, coworkers, associates, leadership, and contacts.
Here are the top 3 behavioral skills you should have or develop that will transfer with you no matter which career pathway you are working on.
Communication is quite possibly one of the most important skills that one should master in their lifetime. Not only is the ability to have good communication skills important in all aspects of your life, but it is vital to the success of a company and for you as an employee. In most jobs, the ability to be able to communicate with others is critical. Being able to communicate well in all aspects is universal with the majority of jobs out there.
There was a study done that showed that many of us spend 70-80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. With that time, we spend about 45 percent listening. Listening is an important part of communication that often goes overlooked. The misconception of having proper communication often starts with the belief that being able to speak politely will suffice. While very important, the art of proper communication often gets butchered with the ability to listen well to others gets passed on.
Imagine communication sort of like the traditional food pyramid. There are many layers that come with it, from body language to the ability to write concise memos, to being able to give someone your undivided attention. Now, imagine listening being at the bottom of the pyramid, supporting the rest of the sub-skills.
I recently attended a workshop where we focused on proper listening skills. We were told to individually write down our thoughts to a given question, and then partner up. We were to each read our answers to the other without interruption; including questions, and affirmative noises like “mmm-hmm”. At the end, the one listening would simply say “Thank you.” They would then have to repeat what was said to them.
Before starting the activity, I thought that it would be a walk in the park. However, while my partner was reading his answers to me, I discovered how difficult it was to interject with my opinions and with questions. It was even harder not to nod, or shake my head. What’s more, being able to repeat everything back without asking questions while he was talking was hard.
Why was it so hard? It was hard because I had made it such a habit to interrupt someone while they were talking. It was even hard to deal with the silence that came from my partner when I was sharing my answers. However, when it was my turn to read the answers, as weird as it might have felt, it was refreshing. I felt like I was being heard. And when I was listening to my partner, I had to really listen to what he was saying, instead of focusing on what my response was going to be. At that moment, my partner was the most important thing and I had to give him my undivided attention.
How it applies at work
The same goes for the workplace, and really in any situation. Listen with an unbiased thought. Repeat what they say next. A good suggestion is to say something like, “If I am hearing you right, you are saying…” By doing this you are asking for clarification to avoid any misunderstandings that you might have.
Having proper communication skills start with listening. Being able to show a recruiter/hiring manager that you have to ability to listen to others and truly understand them, shows them that you are passionate about the job, care about what they are saying, and even that you have the ability to get along with others. People in the workforce need to be able to understand the goals of the company, and where they fit into it. This all starts with being able to listen well. Being able to handle both good and bad feedback is one thing, but being able to truly understand the feedback is a whole ‘nother ball game.
Of course, it goes without saying that some of the other universal skills required for success aren’t just social. Time management is another crucial skill needed in the workplace. Being able to efficiently manage your time is a skill that is very important but often not practiced well.
Proper time management is the process in which you plan and practice control over the amount of time you spend on an activity. To practice time management, you want to always plan ahead first.
For example, I conducted a little experiment with time management. For a couple days I made no plans of my goals were for the week, day, etc. Instead, I just jumped into doing whatever I felt I needed to be done. By doing that, not only did I not have enough time to do what I needed to get done, but I forgot to do most of it.
How it applies at work
Employers contribute your ability to handle your time well with the success of their company. Essentially time is money. We are given only a certain amount of hours per day to work, and with that work comes deadlines. If you are unable to provide a great product within an allotted time, employers won’t see the need for your other skill sets, no matter how good and how many there might be.
The best way to start managing your time better is to set daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term goals for yourself, and write them down. Write down on a calendar, and estimate how long it might take you to do it. When you set a timeframe for how long it might take you to complete a task, always add more time on to that. By doing this, you are preparing yourself for anything unexpected that might come up. Be sure to factor any deadlines that you might have, and prioritize your scheduling by that. While it may be tempting to work on easier tasks first, you may find yourself scrambling to get the harder stuff done on time.
To be able to understand how to handle conflict, you must first understand that there are different types of conflict and with that comes different ways of solving said conflicts. For example, a conflict between coworkers is very different from conflict with a client. With different types of conflict, an understanding of how to handle the situation is unique and may require a certain level of creativity. However, ultimately no matter the solution, conflict management often boils down to a few simple moves on your part.
Active listening, as discussed above is a key component to conflict management. Being able to listen to someone else can help you learn to empathize with them and overcome any obstacles there might be. A good way to utilize active listening while smoothing over a conflict is to respond back with something like, “Just to be clear I understand where you’re coming from, do you think this approach is the best?” This prevents miscommunication/confusion, and allows the other party to know that they are being heard and acknowledged.
Being able to empathize is huge to conflict management. Often the difference between sympathy and empathy often go overlooked. Sympathy is when you can say “I’m sorry,” but not really mean it. Empathy is when you can feel where the other person is coming from. By being able to see where another party is coming from and understand their needs and motivations can be extremely beneficial if not critical to conflict management. To build empathy, you must first be unbiased and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Once you can understand where they are coming from you need to validate it.
Most importantly, before having a discussion about conflict, evaluate where you are coming from. Are you more concern in “winning” or is your priority more important than that? Asking the other person what they would do is a great way to smooth over any problems. Success is determined by being able to adapt and build; employers know that.
How it applies at work
While conflict may have a bad name attached to it, it’s not completely a bad thing. Without conflict, there would be progress and change. As much as you would love to avoid conflict completely, it’s bound to happen at some point. While preventing conflict altogether might be impossible, being able to manage it well isn’t. Which is why conflict management is so vital of a skill to have.
Successful businesses understand that conflict is inevitable and know that it can foster productivity if handled appropriately. With conflict comes diverse thoughts and positive changes. However, if a conflict isn’t handled well, company morale can greatly diminish which will lead to productivity levels going down. Conflict management is a skill that employers look for, as they understand the pros and cons of conflict within the workplace.
For more articles on skills development and career advice, check out our other articles on careerbuzz!