4 soft skills you need to work on, and why

By David Sturt and Tom Nordstrom

Would you rather have a co-worker or manager who’s a leader in your field, a true expert with great amounts of knowledge and experience—but isn’t much of a people person, and doesn’t get along with the team very well? Or would you rather work side by side with an inexperienced colleague or leader who’s collaborative, curious, friendly, and pleasant? For most people, the answer is a no-brainer: “Give me someone I can work with! The knowledge and skills will come.” The good news is, if you think you fall into the first category (lots of smarts and experience, but a lack of people skills), you can turn that around. We meet these people all the time. And, it’s often difficult for them to ask for help regarding their “softer skills.” Nevertheless, we’ve found four soft skills you need to make people feel at ease and help them trust you at work—and, by the way, you’ll be making more friends, boosting your productivity, and innovating in no time.


“Listen first, talk later.” “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” “You learn when you listen.” If you’ve heard these—or any other of the myriad of quotes—about listening, you may grasp the importance of this skill. The team grows stronger, people are happier and more satisfied with their jobs, and the whole company benefits. It’s a win-win-win. So if you don’t say thank you nearly enough—and most people don’t, research shows—use these best practices to work more appreciation into your work life.

Nonverbal Communication

We’ve written before about the importance of being a good communicator. As a leader, your communication style sets the tone for the team. It’s important to be clear, concise, and respectful when you speak or write emails, but your nonverbal cues are another crucial part of good communication. Facial expressions, posture, gestures, and eye contact all count—and they say a lot. Make sure to be positive, polite, and respectful in your face-to-face interactions at work.

Dealing with change

You know the only constant is change—so why is it so hard to manage when something suddenly shifts at work? Whether it’s a team member leaving or arriving, a change in direction, or even a new office space, change can be tricky to navigate. Our top tips? Keep your head. Ask questions so you understand the situation. Enlist help from friends and colleagues when you feel overwhelmed. And be patient, because adjusting to a new situation will probably take a little time.

Saying thank you

Yes, you’ve heard this before. Saying thank you really matters. When you reach out to a team member, a colleague, or even your boss (they deserve a thank you, too!) to appreciate their effort or big win, you’re projecting more than just professionalism. You’re also communicating kindness and team spirit—and boosting co-workers’ motivation to innovate and make a difference.

Hard skills might be what get you the job—but soft skills are what drive friendship, success and happiness at work. So brush up on these simple but crucial people skills to boost your professional success. And don’t be surprised if they help your life outside work either!

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