Our mind is constantly evaluating the angles, possibilities, benefits and drawbacks of countless decisions, though we rarely think much about what is going on in our minds.
If I ask my boss for a day off next week, will I miss out on an opportunity? Should I tell HR that someone has been reporting his arrival time at work as far earlier than the reality? Should I tell my boss I am looking for a new job or should I keep her in the dark until I have one in place?
Each of these questions – and a million others that come up each day – requires a careful analysis of the situation. Consider the list of soft skills necessary for each of the questions raised above:
- Listening – Paying attention to what others did in similar situations to learn the rules of the road.
- Critical Thinking – Using the information obtained from listening and other stimuli to formulate an appropriate response to the situation.
- Presentation – Evaluating other people’s words and actions through their presentation of information, and preparing a possible presentation of the information regarding the situation. Also, being able to talk coherently so that the people involved understand and appreciate your concerns and interests.
- Negotiating – Determining what should be done and how to handle it with others involved.
- Conflict Management – Being able to deal with any negatives outcomes or consequences that arise from your choices.
- Adaptability – Being able to alter your actions as the situation evolves. For instance, if your boss seems distracted when you enter her office, recognizing the signals and putting off the discussion for later in the day.
- Responsibility – Taking responsibility for your career and your success and for the requirements of your job.
- Proactivity – Being proactive about your career and situation
- Loyalty – Weighing the requirements of loyalty against what you need to succeed for yourself.
- Confident – Having the confidence to admit to yourself that you are ready for a new job.
- Ethical – Deciding what is best to do to meet your own ethical standards.
Most of us take action without much thought. We might do what someone else told us to do. We might just do what feels right. We might follow our instinct or our gut.
But breaking down the individual skills at play gets at one of the core realities of soft skills. They rarely, if ever, operate in isolation. One soft skill is dependent on other soft skills. Notice how many of the ones listed above play off of one or another of them.
Even though soft skills usually operate in concert with one another, we often cannot identify areas for improvement unless we look at them individually. And as we work on one soft skill, it influences and affects the others. Further complicating matters is that some soft skills are more in use than others, and some work more closely with others.