Soft skills training revolve around personal relationships, character, and attitude. By nurturing these skills, you can increase your work performance, build stronger relationships, and work toward earning a promotion. Develop your communication skills, strengthen your interpersonal relationships, and demonstrate your professional enthusiasm to show your colleagues and supervisors that your soft skills are well rounded.
Developing Your Communication Skills
1. Aim to be understood
Your goal, whether speaking or writing, should be to communicate clearly. Fancy or highfalutin language can oftentimes make the point you’re trying to make confusing or unclear. Some ideas to improve your clarity in communication include:
- Staying on topic. Focus on the point of your communication. This could be something as simple as determining whether your coworker is free for lunch.
- Be specific when communicating. You may have difficulty getting to the point. To improve your clarity, use specific terms instead of general pronouns or indefinite periods of time.
2. Make eye contact
Acknowledge that you are paying attention to someone by meeting their gaze eye to eye. Eye contact will make your conversation partner feel like you’re more engaged. If you have difficulty doing this, turn your body to face the person you’re speaking with.
- By turning your body to face your conversation partner directly, you’ll naturally be more likely to look them in the eye.
- If you’re uncomfortable looking someone directly in the eyes, choose a point just above or below the eyes, like the bridge of the nose, and look there instead.
- Even if there are other distractions in the room, keep your eyes focused on your conversation partner. Allowing your gaze to wander can come across as rude.
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3. Monitor your body language
Show interest by sitting up and leaning forward slightly. Resist the urge to tap your fingers or foot, as this can indicate impatience. You can also connect with conversation partners by mimicking their posture.
- Although it might seem odd at first, by mimicking the posture of your conversation partner, you’re subconsciously sending the message that you both are the same, which will put them at ease.
- Try to curb unconscious motions that could be taken the wrong way, like playing with your hair or bouncing your leg up and down.
4. Practice speaking
This includes both public speaking and casual conversation. Even if you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of others, practice will make speaking come more easily and improve your ability. Be conscious of your pace and volume while practicing.
- If you are uneasy in personal relationships, try practicing with a close friend or family member you are comfortable with.
- If you are nervous about speaking in public, volunteer to give presentations to a smaller group and work your way up to a larger one.
5. Develop your writing skills
Much like speaking, the more you write, the easier it will become. You can also take courses to improve your writing. You can do writing exercises on your own. You can also frequently find affordable writing workshops offered at community centers, community colleges or online.
- When you finish writing something, be sure to glance it over for grammar and spelling errors. This only takes a minute or two, and can drastically improve the quality of your written work.
- Be direct and to the point instead of elaborate. Although you may feel uncomfortable with this at first, being direct can greatly improve the clarity of your writing.
6. Practice active listening skills
Listening requires focus and self-discipline. We listen for many different reasons: to understand instructions, to empathize with another individual, or to judge whether a plan is good or not. You can show your conversation partner you’re paying attention by:
- Paraphrasing and asking questions about what was said. This demonstrates interest and focus. It also helps you understand the situation.
- Taking notes when appropriate. This shows that the subject matter is important to you. Practice taking notes in team meetings or staff training sessions.
- Refraining from interrupting others. Show respect to your speaking partner by letting them finish saying what they are saying
7. Pay attention to the other person’s body language
Observe their posture, tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), gestures, and facial expressions. This can offer clues for how you might best respond and can help you better understand your conversation partner’s frame of mind.
- For example, if your coworker has red eyes and is sniffling, you might surmise that they have allergies or a cold. In this situation, you might want to be more sensitive, as it’s likely they don’t feel well.
- If your speaking partner keeps checking the time, they might be enjoying your conversation but have an appointment to keep.
Strengthening Interpersonal Relationships
1. Build relationships
Interpersonal skills are important in the workplace, especially since so many organizations are designed around teams and departments. Seek to build friendships with peers, supervisors, clients, and business partners.
- Invite coworkers, colleagues, and supervisors to local events, like block parties, museum events, concerts, and more.
- Host a party of your own and invite your coworkers, colleagues, and supervisors. An informal setting might be just the place to cement your relationship.
2. Be friendly with colleagues
Greet them when they get to work. Invite them to lunch or coffee. Talk for a few minutes in the break room as you are getting a drink. Participate in work events like softball clubs, staff lunches, and training days. These are great ways to strengthen your professional relationships.
- Try to avoid gossip. Talking about others is often interpreted as rude, and should the individual you’re talking about find out it could harm your relationship with them.
3. Manage conflict in a healthy way
Address issues with the individual(s) involved in a private manner. Approach the discussion in a nonjudgmental but assertive manner. Ask questions and try to understand their side of the story. Work together to find a solution.
- Some people are uncomfortable with conflict. Get around that discomfort by acknowledging it and saying something like, “You might feel a little uncomfortable – I do too. But our relationship is important to me and I’d like to talk about.
4. Network with people inside and outside your organization
Ask people about their jobs and share a bit about what you do. Note connections and ways you could potentially help each other. Exchange contact information and be sure to follow up with them.
- Sometimes it can be inconvenient to exchange information at the moment. A business card with your information on it can make exchanging details much easier.
5. Practice leading
Leadership can be defined as your ability to influence other people, oftentimes with regard to making decisions. As such, leadership skills can be used by any employee at any level in an organization.