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Soft skills - What are they and how can you enhance them?

Soft Skills

Discover how to boost them in your job.

Soft skills allow you to stand out in a workplace where emotional intelligence and the ability to adapt to change are just as crucial as technical knowledge.

What makes you a good professional is certainly more than just technical knowledge. The philosophy of soft skills – also known as human skills – is based on this premise: a set of social skills that allow people to give the best of themselves at work, regardless of their professional goals.

The development of these skills has proven to bring about great benefits, both for employees and the organizations themselves. Therefore, up to 92% of companies take them into account upon hiring potential candidates by prioritizing this type of skills over technical, manual, or cognitive ones.

Among the most sought-after are: problem-solving skills, the ability to manage complex situations, and communication skills. In order to enhance them, all you need is a bit of willpower, lots of enthusiasm and, of course, to keep on reading this article.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are subjective skills that include emotional, social, and communication aspects, which improve interpersonal relationships and teamwork.

Soft skills are a set of abilities that are inherent to human beings, which is why they are also called human skills. In the workplace, they enable the integration of a person into a work team, thus improving the work environment, motivation, and productivity, among others.

They are directly related to the development of social skills such as collaboration, communication, and empathy. These skills that are not acquired in an academic or professional setting, but are rather developed within the framework of the individuals' own social sphere through their own experiences.

In contrast to soft skills, we can find hard skills. While the former refer to social skills, hard skills are associated with more technical skills. In other words, they are derived from knowledge acquired through academic training or professional experience.

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Communication

It's important to establish a healthy and fluid communication with the people around you. This allows you to create bonds of trust between colleagues, which results in a comfortable and pleasant working environment.

To achieve this, you can:

Watch your non-verbal communication:

Try to use a calm and paused tone of voice. Avoid making gestures that could be interpreted as invasive or threatening.

Be assertive:

Communicate what you feel or need from your colleagues in a kind and respectful way. Express clearly what you want to communicate, and choose the right moment to do so.

Practice active listening:

Pay attention to the message that the other person is conveying to you. Listen to everything they have to say without interrupting. You can ask questions or reformulate some of the sentences until you reach a common understanding.

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Flexibility

Today's work environments are ever-changing. We constantly have to deal with unforeseen events, update our knowledge, or keep up with new trends and developments in our industry. That's why being flexible is so important:

  • Try to see every change as an opportunity, not a problem.
  • Anticipate possible unforeseen events, and create an action plan with different alternative scenarios.
  • Look for ways to keep up to date in your work such as webinars, online courses, specialized magazines, etc.
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Collaboration

Most companies are committed to teamwork where professionals from different sectors collaborate side by side to achieve a common goal. If you want to improve, you can start by:

  • Whenever necessary, rely on your colleagues. They are there to help you (and vice versa).
  • Don't be afraid to express your opinion. Disagreements are good and are fundamental to growth. Communicate with respect and, whenever you offer criticism, make sure it is constructive.
  • Involve your colleagues in your work processes. For instance, tell them how you are approaching a certain project or what your action plan is.
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Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to organize, process, and analyze information until a certain conclusion is reached. In order to develop it, you can implement small changes in your day-to-day life:

  • Don't stick to a single source: Search and compare data. Check and contrast information until you arrive at your own conclusion.
  • Be proactive: Don't expect the problem to magically disappear. Analyze the causes of the problem and propose solutions.
  • Put your prejudices aside: Try to be as objective as possible, and set aside your personal prejudices. Question all the information available to you, and determine the option that, objectively, you consider most appropriate.
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Empathy

This is lately one of the most valued soft skills and consists of truly understanding another person's situation, knowing their emotions, and acting accordingly. In order to become a more empathetic person at work, some of the keys you should keep in mind are:

  • Don't just "listen" to your coworkers. Try to understand them.
  • Be tolerant of others' opinions, even if you do not agree with them.
  • Try to understand what your emotions are in a given situation and manage them.
  • Forget about prejudices, and do not judge anyone.
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It's very likely that during your workday you will have to deal with a variety of unforeseen events or "problems." This may cause you to breakdown at some point. Prevent this from happening by developing your problem-solving skills. How?

Analyze what the real problem is:

Identify what its causes are, as well as its variables. Sometimes, "breaking down" or "splitting up" the problem into different parts can help you visualize it better.

Keep an open mind:

You should stay calm and not anticipate anything. Listen to your colleagues, get other opinions, and look for possible solutions.

Take on a positive attitude:

Don't let negativity take over you. Look at the problem as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Conduct a brainstorming session:

This technique will be very useful when you can't clearly identify what the solution to the problem might be.

Soft skills have become key tools to face today's constant changes and challenges.

In today's ever-changing world, soft skills have become fundamental skills, both in the work and personal environment. The ability to communicate effectively, work in a team, show empathy and adaptability, among others, are key aspects to stand out in an increasingly diverse and collaborative work and social environment.

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