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7 Soft Skills You Need to Excel at Your Job

Technical skills, knowledge and experience are important attributes to work in any profession. But while they may help you keep your job, these days, they are not enough to excel at it. What you also need in your professional arsenal is soft skills.

According to a study conducted by renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman, which involved nearly 200 large, global companies, Emotional Intelligence (EI) [also known as Emotional Quotient (EQ)] was found to be twice as important as Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and technical ability. What’s more, he found that truly effective leaders were distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Thus, the question is not, “will you be working on your soft skills?” The question is, “which soft skill will you be working on today?” Here are 7 to get you started!

1. Emotional Awareness

Cultivating soft skills starts with cultivating emotional awareness. If you cannot understand your own emotions, how can you begin to understand the emotions of others?

The next time you face a situation that sparks a strong emotion inside you, just pause and take a deep breath. Pay attention to what you feel and delve into why you feel that way.

Being aware of your own emotions is the first step to mastering them. By honing your emotional awareness, you will be better placed to use your emotions in a constructive manner when interacting with customers, clients and co-workers.

2. Empathy

According to Psychology Today, empathy is the “experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective.” While this definition may seem clinical, the process of developing empathy can be an extremely enjoyable process involving activities happening outside of office hours such as travelling, volunteering, attending events and taking continuing education courses.

Exposing yourself to a diverse array of people outside your industry will expand your perspective so that you may better understand where your colleagues and customers are coming from.

3. Listening

According to Stephen R. Covey, the author of international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

If you are always focussed on what you will say next, you are practically telling your counterpart, “I value what I have to say more than what you have to say.” This blocks connection and increases the chances that you will miss the core of what they say and how they feel.

Listening is one of the most commonly overlooked, yet powerful communication skills out there. Whether you work in customer service or not, the best way to put someone at ease is to just listen to them intently. People want to be heard and will appreciate it if you approach them with a genuine attitude.

4. Patience

We’ve all heard the proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue.” But how many of us actually practise it at our workplace?

The reality of work is that while we may want things now, they may have to come later. There will be situations where things go wrong and times where things get stressful. However, every customer service interaction, and in a larger context, every true success story, requires patience.

According to Amy Hoover, president of recruitment portal Talent Zoo, “if you’re patient with others and can keep a level head in stressful situations, it will definitely be noticed by management and perceived as a very strong asset.”

5. Flexibility

If there is one thing that can be guaranteed in the world, it is change. Nothing stays the same. Everything is constantly changing.

At a macro level, industries are being shaped by globalisation, world needs and technological advancement. At a micro level, your company’s projects and personnel, as well as your colleagues’ professional experience and moods are changing on a daily basis too.

We can either resist and be taken away by change, or we can move with it. Those who excel at their jobs will also be those who embrace new ideas and are flexible in how they approach work.

6. Acknowledgment

People want to be around people who appreciate them and help them to be at their best – and this is no different in the workplace. Unfortunately, many professionals focus too much on mistakes or the next big thing, rather than acknowledging the small successes along the way.

Both managers and team members should make an effort to appreciate the work of others. This simple act will stand out and boost everyone’s morale to continue doing more good work. And if you make others feel good, they’ll no doubt want you to stick around!

7. Negotiation

Negotiation is often relegated to those who work in sales or business development. However, as Dan Pink points out in his book, To Sell Is Human, we are all in the game of sales. Every day, we negotiate points of view, project scopes, salaries, employee benefits and even who will get the last sandwich at the office luncheon.

Thus, if you want to excel at your job, you must level up your soft skills and learn how to negotiate. Even learning a few negotiation strategies such as how to create a win-win situation and BRATNA (Best Realistic Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) will make you more confident in your negotiations.

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