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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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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