How to Improve Your Soft Skills?

How to improve your soft skills is an important question to answer for your career success.  It is also a tough question to answer in general as soft skills encompass many different skills in two general categories.

  • self management skills– those we use to manage our emotions, self-perception, and reactions to unexpected situations. Examples of these soft skills include stress management, self-confidence, emotion control, etc…
  • people skills – those we use to influence how others perceive / receive us, our work, our ideas. Examples of these soft skills include communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills, ability to deal with difficult personalities.

Any one of these soft skills will take time to improve. At a high level, here are five tips I recommend to start improving your soft skills today.

  1. Build self awareness – understand why you react to certain situations and people a certain way, why you become stressed, angry, shy, irritated, etc… In order to develop any self management skills, you first have to understand yourself. Change starts at the point of awareness
  2. Understand other people’s motivations – with any interaction with people, what you are dealing with is your motivation / insecurity and theirs. Any action that cause conflict in motivation or trigger yours or other person’s insecurity, will create a difficult or unexpected situation. By proactively trying to put yourself in their shoes before any interaction, you could communicate better and can better manage your reaction to unexpected situations
  3. Don’t try to eat a cow in one bite – this is a famous Chinese proverb that basically means don’t try to achieve too much in one step. You will set yourself up for failure and end up feeling defeated. You cannot improve all your soft skills over night, so identify one soft skill you want to start with.  Use my recent post on What are soft skills to identify one.  Start researching (books, blogs, etc…) and practice on that one skill. Once you make progress on one soft skill, it will give you the confidence to improve more on others a step at a time.
  4. It’s all about changing yourself not others – Some people may think improving soft skills can help you manipulate/change others’ actions. It’s not true. Improving soft skills is all about changing yourself, your perception, your approach to situations. Only when you change, will people’s reaction to you also change.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice – soft skills are not something you can just study in a book to get better, improvement takes practice over time. Improving soft skills is fundamentally about changing your behavior and thought patterns toward yourself and others. So every next interaction you have with people at work is an opportunity to practice a soft skill

Want more on this topic? Then subscribe to my newsletter – How to Succeed Like an Executive – in-depth tips (not published on the blog) on how to improve your soft skills.

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Your Comments – What has been your biggest challenges in improving your soft skills? Do you think anyone can improve their soft skills or are some people naturally better than others?  I look forward to your comments.   I am always in your corner

– Lei

26 thoughts on “How to Improve Your Soft Skills?”

  1. I am so impressed with Lei Han’s Soft Skills improvement!.. Well, change starts with self!.. my question is how do one improve their appearance after you get all that done, because you can not change what’s natural, but one make it any better? The greying of Hair, ones hair receding etc, that is!!.. Because I have also found out your General out look, plays s huge role, before even you are spoken too. People judge you based on that, as inept!… Oh, he/she won’t serve the company for long, etc… please advise, I thank you.

    Sincerely yours,

    1. Patrick, I am glad you found the article helpful. As for your question, it is a very valid one. There is definitely age discrimination in the work place, but it is not all based on appearance, but more based on the age you portray yourself.

      You can be 30 years old, but if you always look tired and complains about medical issue, the company will worry about your longevity even you have all your hair. On the other hand, if you are 55, but always show up to work high spirited with a spring in your step and animated interactions with others, it doesn’t matter if you are bald.

      Remember first, no one knows your actual age unless you share it. So also stop marketing yourself as old, saying things like “in the old days….” or “I don’t hear as well as I used to” or “these old bones needs to go home.” etc…

      I think you get my point. Also for your appearance, while you can’t change your actual age, you can choose to dye your hair or shave it bald as well as dress well. You can look distinguished and commanding instead.

      At the end of day, companies want to hire people that appear energetic, passionate, and self directed. You can very well influence their impression of you based on how you speak and how you present yourself physically.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. Best wishes,


  2. My company is currently going through yearly Performance Review and I have to take my staff through the process and want to be supportive in my response to them and to motivate them. When a person lacks soft skills, is not motivated, has no drive, does not have a good reputation in the company and is only doing what they can get away with and no more. How can I get this over to them and advise them of what they should be doing to improve. It is easier with hard skills as I can identify the skill gap and organise a training course.

    Can you advise?

    1. Jean

      You asked me some good questions about how to give performance feedback to someone not motivated and lacks soft skills.

      Here is my short answer and we can talk more if you want to get on a call with me.

      1. Ask questions – Understand why they are not motivated.

      2. Set clear expectations of their role and lay out what is the career path for good performance and consequence for perf. below expectations (e.g. Probation etc)

      3. If you have already done 2 above six months ago, then I would put them on probation or an improvement plan. Basically something that says if they don’t improve in x month, they will laid off

      4. Lay out in the plan exactly what they need to improve. If their attitude change and really want to improve, take time to help them. But if they seem still uninterested then let them go when you can. You can help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

      At least with this approach you have given them an opportunity to change. Let me know if you have more questions.

      Best wishes

  3. Lei — In comment 10, did you really mean nuisance? “You cannot convey the right message or tone if you don’t now the nuisance of what the words mean…”

  4. poonam, thanks for your comments. the key to confidence in communication is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. allow yourself to make mistakes along the way. start by practicing with friends or close colleagues as well as in the mirror. You will not improve if you don’t try, but you also cannot improve if you expect to be perfect at it the first time. you won’t. The key is to take opportunity to try. Other ways are to take communication classes or join a toast master club. the more your practice, that’s where you will build confidence and more skills to communicate. also see my article on how to build confidence – anyone can do it. best wishes,

  5. Kindly suggest how to improve confidence to communicate? I just read all the details regarding soft skills but can’t develop them. Having all exp. knowledge .pls help

    1. Jason, this is a good question. I would say confidence is not something you want to wait for someone else to give you, as that will never happen. You are in control of your thought patterns and you have to give yourself confidence and surround yourself with people who believe in you to reinforce it. stay away from people who likes to put other people down. I wrote an article about this called How to Stop Lack of Confidence - Hope it helps

      Best wishes,


  6. stress managment is an area i really need to improve on. i think learning new ways to manage my time and learning ways to deal with procrastination will help in this area.

    1. Have a good command of the English language will be fundamental to your communication skills. You cannot convey the right message or tone if you don’t know the nuance of what the words mean or what words to use. Best way to start, is to immerse yourself COMPLETELY in the English language and the US culture (assuming you live in the US) – this means speak only English at home, watch TV in English only, make English speaking friends, attend social events where the language spoken is in English and the social environement is the US culture. This means giving up clinging to your own race group or first language group in almost anything and everything you do. Total immersion is the fastest way to gain command of not only the language but the culture. Hope that helps

  7. Quite useful tips and the list of soft skills too is helpful. I will appreciate if you could also suggest activities and games to develop soft skills or at least awareness.

    1. There is no easy way to develop these soft skills. I am not aware of any games that can help improve these skills. I am currently thinking of doing some scenario gaming to see if that gains any traction with readers, so stay tuned.

      As for activities, every day you are at work, you can practice these soft skills. Every decision you make and communication you have with others can be an activity to practice these skills. What important is focus. Don’t try to improve all the skills at once. Pick one and practice that first. What can also help is my newsletter – How to Succeed like an Executive. You can sign up at the sidebar on my site or on the home page. I address one soft skills in each article including tips that you can then try at work. Best wishes,

  8. Improving soft skills does take some time. I would recommend starting by signing up for my free newsletter (see sidebar) – How to Succeed like an Executive.

    Each week I will send you an article on some simple ways to improve one soft skill. Beyond that, improving also requires practice. Choose one soft skill to improve at a time and start practicing what you learn.

    best wishes,

  9. Divya,

    The best way to learn how to speak English fluently is to do Total Immersion – which means expose yourself 100% of the time in English (at work, at home, and at social gatherings)
    1. watch TV and movies in English
    2. Make friends who only speak English (many people just have friends who speak their own native language – this will only slow your progress)
    3. Join social clubs or activities where conversations are in English.
    This will force you to learn it faster and adapt quickly. Best wishes,


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