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Soft skills relate to how you work ie, they refer to the way one conducts himself/herself at the workplace. Soft skills include interpersonal (people) skills, communication skills, listening skills, time management, personality traits and empathy, among others. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others. Unlike hard skills (also known as technical skills) that are learned, soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow people to read others.

A hard skill for a carpenter, for example, might be the ability to operate a power saw or use framing squares. A soft skill would be the ability of the carpenter to communicate effectively with co-workers and clients. These are much harder to learn, at least in a traditional classroom. They are also much harder to measure and evaluate. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as opposed to intelligence quotient (IQ).

Here are the top soft skills in demand for today’s job market:

    • Communication
    • Organization
    • Team-work Skills
    • Punctuality
    • Critical Thinking
    • Social Skills
    • Creativity

When you’re applying for a new job, highlight your soft skills as well as your job-specific ones. First, make a list of the soft skills you have that are relevant to the job you want. Compare your list of soft skills with the job listing. Finally, you can highlight these soft skills in your interviews. You can demonstrate your soft skills during the interview by being friendly and approachable. If you pay close attention while the interviewer is talking, you will show your listening skills.

Communication skills are important in almost every job. You will likely need to communicate with people on the job, whether they are clients, customers, colleagues, employers, or vendors. You will also need to be able to speak clearly and politely with people in person, by phone, and in writing. You will also likely need to be a good listener. More than just clearly speaking the language, communication skills involve active listening and excellent presentation and writing capabilities. One highly sought-after communication skill is the ability to explain technical concepts to partners, customers, and coworkers who aren’t tech-savvy.

Employers want employees who can not only communicate their ideas but who also listen empathetically to others. Listening is a particularly important skill in customer service jobs. Planning and effectively implementing projects and general work tasks for yourself and others is a highly effective soft skill to have. Haphazard, slapdash organization wastes your colleagues’ time and your employers’ money, so having stacked skills in the organization department will always come in handy. Creativity is probably the most underrated soft skill because it usually takes someone creative to appreciate the need for others who are, and most people just aren’t that creative.

Gestures and body language play a crucial role in soft skills. A gesture is a type of communication where the individual communicates without speaking, simply with the help of hand and body movements, facial expressions and so on. There are many different types of non-verbal communication. The non-verbal communication associated with the body, including body language or body movements, is also known as kinesics, posture, and proxemics.

Body language is the unspoken element of communication that we use to reveal our true feelings and emotions. When you arrive at the spot where you’ll begin your talk, pause for a moment, look out and briefly survey the audience, find one of the friendly faces of someone you met when you arrived early to ‘meet and greet’ – then speak your opening words. Your feet should point straight ahead, about shoulder length apart. Your posture is important and conveys a message. Good, straight posture indicates leadership and confidence. It tells the audience that you are in control. It conveys the message that you have confidence in your competence. Leaning slightly forward shows the audience you care. Slouching to one side delivers the opposite message. It shows disinterest. Hunched shoulders indicate a lack of confidence and possibly low self-esteem.

Good posture should be natural and relaxed, not stiff and tense. As with all other elements of your speaking, verbal and non-verbal, it takes practice. Practice in front of a mirror, ask friends to critique this non-verbal part of your talk and look at your posture on videos of your talks. If you want to feel relaxed, assume a posture that reflects that feeling. (This, combined with some deep breathing will relax you!)

Eye contact is a nonverbal communication skill required for every relationship, but it is crucially important in business relationships to convey confidence, leadership, engagement, and it shows you are listening. It is a form of body language which is important during communication. Practising good eye contact is a skill for effective and vital communication and is most underrated and under-utilized. Keeping eye contact with the person you are talking to indicates interest and saying to the person “You are important and I am listening”. Like any skill, it can be honed and improved.

Tips to Improve Eye Contact Skills

    1. Solicit help from a trusted colleague -Ask someone you trust at work to help you by pointing out when your eyes begin to roam. A simple nod, clearing of the throat, etc. can be the signal to draw your eyes back.
    2. Actively make eye contact -Take steps to make eye contact a habit by making eye contact with everyone. Actively try and notice the colour of their eyes as the first step. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become with making eye contact.
    3. Practice makes perfect -Once you have made good progress on making eye contact with everyone, then while engaged in a conversation, practice keeping that eye contact longer by pushing yourself. You could do so by setting benchmarks, such as keeping eye contact until the person finishes a sentence or two sentences. It may feel awkward and calculated at first, which is why it is important to solicit the assistance of a trusted colleague, but it will become more and more comfortable over time.

Communicating over the phone remains an important tool for businesses. Despite digital customer service communication advancements including email, texting and automated answering services, customers continue to use the telephone as their initial point of contact. Phone calls are often the first positive impression a client or customer will have of your business. Telephone etiquette is the way you use manners to represent yourself and your business to customers via telephone communication. This includes the way you greet a customer, your body language, tone of voice, word choice, listening skills and how you close a call.

Netiquette, also known as network etiquette or online etiquette is a set of rules and good practice associated with the way we should conduct ourselves when communicating electronically/online via non-face-to-face methods such as social media, forums, websites, messaging applications, mobile devices, email, etc. The golden rule of netiquette is: Do not do or post anything online that you would not say to someone face to face.

Interpersonal skills are the skills we use every day when we communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups. They are sometimes referred to as social skills, people skills, soft skills, or life skills. However, these terms can be used both more narrowly and more broadly than interpersonal skills. The ability to work in teams, relate to people and manage conflict is a valuable asset in the workplace. Hence, interpersonal communication is an important skill to hone to get ahead, and as you advance in your career, the aptitude to work with others becomes even more crucial. They include a wide range of skills, but particularly communication skills such as listening and effective speaking. They also include the ability to control and manage your emotions.

It is no exaggeration to say that interpersonal skills are the foundation for success in life. People with strong interpersonal skills tend to be able to work well with other people, including in teams or groups, formally and informally. They communicate effectively with others, whether family, friends, colleagues, customers or clients. They also have better relationships at home and work. You can improve your interpersonal skills by developing your awareness of how you interact with others and practising your skills.

Thus, soft skills have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. As such, they encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others and usually are a definite part of an individual’s personality. In a competitive labour market, employees who demonstrate a good combination of hard and soft skills often see a greater demand for their services. Soft skills benefit businesses when they are practised on a company-wide basis. For example, a collaborative spirit among workers is important. Team members who can work well with people of different generations and backgrounds are generally more productive and better able to focus on common priorities. Efficiency and output improve when workers collaborate by sharing knowledge and tools to get jobs done. The ability to learn new methods and technologies also is a desired soft skill for all workers. Companies that value learning as a soft skill recognize various learning styles and encourage workers to pursue the methods that work best for them.