It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, you need soft skills to be successful on the job. Technical skills are of course necessary in any job; whether you’re an electrician, a real estate agent or an accountant, you need specialist skills, an understanding of the laws surrounding your field and, in some cases, to be licensed or registered. But when you have those technical skills, what’s the difference between you and the next person with the same set of expertise? What makes customers or employers choose to work with you over someone else? It’s the soft skills like communication, relationship building and conflict resolution that make the difference. Unlike technical skills though, it’s not so easy to know which ones are the most important, so we’ve broken down three of the most sought-after soft skills.
Being able to get a message across clearly without any misinterpretation is important in any role, which is why communication is at the top of the list of must-have soft skills.
Today, with most of our communication happening online, it’s much harder to read body language cues like smiles and crossed arms (even during video calls). So what you say and how you say it is more important than ever before. Here are some tips for good communication:
- Keep it concise. To deliver your message with clarity and impact, less is more. This ensures your reader/listener is more likely to understand what you’re saying and remember it later.
- Signpost your key points. When you have important things to say, make it clear what they are at the start of your conversation or bold it in written text. This way, your listener/reader will know what to listen out for.
- Talk to, not at the other person. Unless you’re giving a presentation, a conversation should involve a bit of back-and-forth. Pausing to give others an opportunity to speak, clarify and ask questions will help keep the conversation on track and ensure you’re on the same page and that each person feels heard.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in- whether you’re a tradie, a banker or a Government regulator, having good relationships with others is key to producing positive outcomes on any project. Here are some tips to help build rapport:
- The little things count. Asking about someone’s family, other projects they’re working on and showing an interest in them personally can go a long way in building rapport. When people feel listened to and respected, projects run more smoothly, there’s less conflict and communication is more open.
- Master the art of collaboration. When you work with others, you’ll often have different ideas and opinions. While this can be challenging, different perspectives can help push the boundaries and deliver outstanding results. So, it pays to be open to and respect others’ ideas, as well as putting forward your own.
Disagreements are an inevitable part of working with other people, so learning how to effectively manage them is a skill that will carry you through your career. Using these techniques will help you to better resolve conflict:
- Practice patience. The way you act has an impact on others. Make a conscious effort to put your own opinions and needs on pause and focus on what the other person is saying- this will help take the heat out of the conflict. By being patient, you’ll find a resolution more easily.
- Use “I” statements. Instead of using “you” statements- blaming and accusing another person- using “I” statements allows you to express your opinions and feelings without stirring up defensiveness or resentment in others. To do this, explain your own feelings about a situation without laying blame. An example is: “I noticed that I didn’t receive that report on Monday and I’m worried that we might be falling behind on our project.” Instead of “You are causing us to fall behind on our project because you didn’t submit that report on time.”
- Be willing to compromise. Sometimes the best way to move on from conflict is to find a middle ground between what you and another want. The better you are at letting go of attachment to your opinions, the easier it will be to find a compromise.
Taking the time to build up your soft skills is worth its weight in gold. These skills can help improve the relationships you have with your team and clients and are also highly appealing to potential employers.