Three Simple Soft Skills to Make a Habit of at Work

Honing the skills that help you get along with others might be the best career move you can make.

Vladyslav Bashutskyy/Adobe Stock

Think of the people you most admire. What qualities do they have? It’s likely that character traits like being empathic, trustworthy, and a good listener, or having patience, a positive attitude, and being adaptable come to mind.

Soft skills signal that not only can you get the job done, you’re going to bring people together at the same time.

Surprisingly these traits that help people truly succeed in their careers are not necessarily the ones that make you the best programmer, number cruncher, or designer. And these “soft skills” are not the ones traditionally taught in school or in corporate training programs. And yet, according to business forecasters, they’re exactly the qualities employers are seeking more and more. Someone who embodies these interpersonal being skills—in addition to the specialized doing skills needed to perform their work—is highly desirable in today’s job market. It signals that not only can you get the job done, you’re going to bring people together at the same time.

The focus on interpersonal skills for professional growth is relativity new, but it’s becoming more common. There are online programs to develop emotional intelligence and to learn nonviolent communication, and consultants (full disclosure: I’m one of them) who work with employees to build these skills in the workplace.

Career success includes knowing how to do your job and how to be on the job. Having the right mix of both will not only make you more employable but also make the experience of work more enjoyable for all. The good news: It’s not that hard to do and is absolutely something you can do on your own. Here are three simple habits you can work on now to enhance how you show up on the job and the impression you make on your colleagues.

1) Pay attention to when you’re not paying attention

Here’s an easy, free starting place—just notice when you’re not present: your mind wanders in a meeting or you log in to Facebook for the eighth time today. Doing that builds present-moment awareness, or presence. The more you do it, the easier it is. Your mind drifts, you notice, and gently bring it back. As you develop presence, others around you will feel it.

2) Consider your words carefully

Begin to pay attention to your words before they leave your mouth. By considering your thoughts and words, even briefly, before sharing them, you’ll begin to build the skills of discernment (Do I need to say this right now?) and authenticity (Is this really what I want to say?). Your communication will be clearer, and you’ll earn the confidence of your colleagues for being thoughtful and honest—two skills of highly respected and successful people.

3) Be real

Explore what happens when you ask for support. Vulnerability is highly underrated.

Practice saying, “I don’t know” when you don’t know, and “I need help” when you need help. Notice when you feel the need to know everything and act on your own. Explore what happens when you ask for support. Vulnerability is highly underrated. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and saying, “I don’t know,” saves time and energy—you get to the core issue right away. It also helps build trust among colleagues when you ask for assistance or information and allow them to support you. On top of that, it invites others to also be vulnerable, encouraging a team atmosphere where people feel that their coworkers have their backs.

This article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Mindful magazine.
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