What are soft skills?
In contrast to hard skills, which include technical skills and the ability to perform certain functional tasks, soft skills are applicable in any industry, any profession, any kind of activity and interaction between people. It is often said that hard skills will help you get an interview, but soft skills will help you get and keep a job, or even create your own company.
Soft skills include good verbal and written communication skills, the ability to sympathize and empathize with others; ability to cooperate and negotiate; problem solving and conflict resolution skills. They are also referred to as people skills or interpersonal skills that are already much closer to the essence of the term than the "soft skills".
Another feature which is quite important is situational awareness. This means that you are able to keep track of how the situation around you develops and know a variety of ways to respond to it in order to gain the best results. Flexibility or adaptability is equally important – being able to thrive in different situations or switching your focus between various tasks without reducing your level of efficiency. The ability to be diplomatic and respectful, even when there are some differences and conflicts is another key area when it comes to soft skills. It means that you are able to maintain a professional tone and demeanor even if you are disappointed, upset or offended.
An employee with strong interpersonal skills is able to articulate his needs and expectations from the team and the environment. Serious companies appreciate employees who know how to properly and respectfully articulate their thoughts, listen to others, understand and accept other points of view and react to different situations in a manner that does not offend the feelings of others.
Executives want their technical staff to have at least some of these valuable skills, as they often require that these employees explain something technical in a simple manner without any hint of condescension. Companies believe that employees who have these skills can not only give better results, but also help to create a comfortable working atmosphere.
Although many leaders have these skills and apply them intuitively, many others must train and work to develop these skills. Professional coaching, books and articles on leadership, self-reflection and work on yourself can help develop those areas that you feel need to be improved. Asking friends and family, co-workers, whose opinion you trust, can also help. Another way to improve yourself is by observing and imitating people who have very good soft skills.