Studies have repeatedly shown that soft skills are not as “soft” as was once thought. While more difficult to train than hard skills, soft skills are vital to success in business and life. Often the most frequently discussed soft skills are: communication, trust, management, and leadership abilities. But what about the others?
Though not as quick to be mentioned, there are a handful of soft skills we feel are just as important as the aforementioned. Consider if you’ve invested time in developing the following:
1. Effective Decision Making
Good decision making is based on two things: the amount of time it takes to make a decision and the amount of research and thought that goes into the decision. Many people are good at one of the two (thinking quickly and deciding fast, or else devoting lots of time into considering all data and possibilities) but it is a much smaller group that can effectively do both. You can add significant value to a team by learning how to make decisions that are both quick and thorough.
While it is generally accepted that the amount of time that it takes to make a decision correlates to the importance of the decision, it is important to always consider context. You may be working with a group that values more comprehensive research prior to making a decision, or you may have a group that is impatient to make the change a reality. Adapting the time and amount of research of your decision-making process to the audience and context you’re working within is crucial to a well-received decision.
2. Good Sense of Humor
A well-placed comment to lighten the mood can work wonders in business relations. Developing an advanced sense of humor can be one of the most charismatic additions to your soft skills tool box, making you an all around more likeable and effective communicator. The key to humor is recognizing time and place. A witty comment made at the wrong time can seriously damage relationships, as can a sarcastic comment to the wrong person. Having an awareness of when and with whom to use humor is the foundation to this skill.
Above all, true humor is appreciated by everyone. Humor that mocks others or comes across as harsh isn’t humor at all. Occasionally jokes fall flat, but jokes that only you find funny aren’t actually funny. Make sure your audience is in the right mindset for a joke and only make jokes that don’t put anyone at a disadvantage. Awareness of your audience and setting (this is business, after all) is the key to developing a well-rounded sense of humor.
3. Cultural Competence
Culture is complicated in the sense that it can be big (your ethnicity, religion, or gender) or small (your family upbringing, education history, or income bracket). Awareness of the fact that culture can vary significantly amongst people who all come from the same general place is crucial to understanding and empathizing with those in your workplace. Ultimately this reduces friction and toxicity, as it creates an environment where people feel understood and trust each other more readily.
Take time to learn more about your colleagues and be aware of how their personal history may affect their decision making or success. Cultural competence isn’t about changing the way you treat others based on their cultural background or level of cultural privilege, but understanding that these factors can impact their perceptions and motivations. This sheds light on behaviors, helping you better manage all types of situations with tact and grace
4. Critical Thinking
The term “critical thinking” gets thrown around a lot, but isn’t always explained. At its heart, critical thinking is the art of asking “why”. Good critical thinkers are able to simplify complex issues, seeing past any baggage the issue may carry. Applied in business, critical thinking digs into existing processes and systems to determine their true efficacy. It also considers all possible issues and outcomes that may arise with a new project.
Critical thinking is overcoming the desire to make assumptions, either about situations or people. Becoming a capable critical thinker aids in reducing stress, both for yourself and others, as decisions are simplified and issues are minimized.
All soft skills are worth developing, but looking beyond the most common skills can set you apart in your field. Mastering some of the above mentioned skills can help increase your satisfaction and engagement at work. In return, this can decrease stress and increase overall success in your business and relationships.