In order to achieve full balance, there must be equal parts yin as there is yang. In business, these two opposing yet equal forces are known as soft and hard skills. Where one covers tendencies that cannot truly be quantified, the other is able to be measured precisely. Yet in today’s world of startups and new ventures, people are losing sight of the soft skills, believing incorrectly that only those things that can be measured hold any worth.
Mastering the Soft
In terms of what, exactly, constitutes the realm of soft skills, the best summation is anything that has to do with interactions between yourself and others. By flexing this muscle, you’ll actually stand head and shoulders above others since soft skills are not practiced by everyone , it is a desired trait from team members and employees, yet it’s also cited to becoming a scarce skill set.
Communication is how we express our thoughts and opinions in such a way that others can understand them. This means having a wide enough vocabulary and imagination to alter how you express meaning to various people based on their own understanding of different aspects of the topic. For instance, if you’re chatting with a Human Resources Specialist about a technology that will change their job for the better, you would not throw around techno jargon. Be keenly aware that the language you’re used to utilizing in your profession is not common lingo for others and any specialized terms will only confuse them and make your product appear less accessible.
Many label the current generation as greedy, self-obsessed brats that believe they deserve more than they’re getting. This, however, is far from the truth. While social media does appear to be self-serving, it’s also a way that people have found connections with others. Treat these individuals with respect and dignity, and you’ll find yourself with a league of dedicated followers. Such courtesy is also something that translates well across all generations, bridging any wide age gaps you may come across. It’s a great way to build mutual regard quickly and effectively.
If you’ve never joined an etiquette class, do so. Knowing how to act in various situations is how you correctly navigate the various parties and group meeting you’ll attend as you work to build up your contact list. Knowing how to properly dine in a high class restaurant will demonstrate your respect for those that were gracious enough to invite you to join and will likely earn you a repeat visit. The same goes for how to act in a relaxed bar atmosphere. People are looking for those that exhibit traits like them. It’s a quick way to forge fast friendships.
Etiquette goes beyond formal settings and needs to be exercised even in social media in being respectful of who you tag and for what; to provide common courtesy and common sense when posting photos of others and even in email how we address others to keep in mind that brevity in text form can come across and brash and disrespectful.
This is probably one of the hardest soft skills to master as it involves a certain level of humility to put your own “mind clutter” aside and truly listen to someone else. Nothing is more frustrating that trying to have a dialogue with someone that hears what you say but doesn’t listen. Instead of building a great conversation, it turns into a one sided gab-fest where the offending party drones on and on, acknowledging what you say with a condescending nod. If a client comes to you with a concern, listen to them. Analyze what they’ve said and see if you can assist. Your goal is to show that you actually pay attention and that you actually value the other person.
Finally, all of this soft skill talk does require the hardness of common sense to make it successful. Focus too much on your soft side and you may come across as out of balance or too distracted or you’ll spend too much time with the wrong people for your goals. Exercise knowing what to say and when to say it. Seek out those that you want to get to know and learn from while keeping threats at a reasonable distance. Common sense also requires the ability to learn from past mistakes. As you try out these new soft skills, you will no doubt do something that upsets someone in some way. Recover from this by assessing what happened, what went wrong and how the situation can be avoided in the future. This way, you’ll garner a lot of awareness in regards to avoiding potentially larger problems in the future.