Why Soft Skills are Important

Posted by Kiana Nordskog on 11/3/20 4:37 PM

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Regardless of what you do or where you work, you'll have to deal with the people around you. 

Love them or hate them, there's really no getting away from them. 

As a result, it's extremely important to know how to work well with the people in your life. Sometimes that does not come naturally. Soft skills include some of these interpersonal skills. It's an entire range of skills that's often ignored as a critical component of any employee in the workplace.

Keep reading to find out what soft skills are, why soft skills are important, and how you can develop them!

What are Soft Skills?

Great question. But first, let's start with hard skills.

Hard skills are those skills which are quantifiable, measurable, or 'doable.' A good example would be typing speed. It could also also include technical skills such as knowing how to operate Microsoft Word, work a spreadsheet on Excel, or an Adobe product. A good way of thinking about them would be in terms of yes-no skills. 

 

Can you paint a picture? Yes! 

Can you change a tire? Yes? (as long as it's not a truck?)

Can you code in C++? No... 

Soft skills, on the other hand, aren't about the yes or no ability to do something or perform a service. They're not easy to quantify numerically. They often include interpersonal skills such as being able to communicate well or delegating tasks. However, softs skills are categorically much broader than that. 

You might be the most brilliant engineer of all time, but can you prioritize time? Can you be a part of a team? How about compromise? Do you deal well with criticism? It might just sound like personal development and building character, but believe it or not, these are all examples of soft skills.

Here's why they're important.

Why are Soft Skills Important?

Soft skills are important to develop for several reasons. The first is that soft skills are necessary to excel in any job.

From working at a fast food restaurant to working in the White House, employers expect their employees to know how to treat people in a professional manner. There are three ways employees need to know how to communicate. Employees need to be able to communicate to their employers about the progress of their tasks. They also need to be able to handle conflicts in an effective manner. Last, they need to be able to get along with their co-workers. Knowing how to communicate and work with people in these three manners makes you a valuable asset with the company you are working with.

Developing soft skills can also be a measure of maturity.

Everyone has time. Very few people know how to get the most out of it.  It is up to you to determine how you will spend yours.

When you are busy, knowing how to manage your time well is extremely important. It can save you from future disasters such as missing deadlines or putting your health at risk. In a similar vein, knowing how to prioritize is an important soft skill. Understanding that not everything can get done on time is important. In that light, good time management and prioritizing is a sign of maturity. 

Some Soft Skills to Develop

The following list is not an inclusive list of soft skills to develop. However, they are some that will prove themselves valuable in the workplace.

1. Teamwork

Elementary school group projects are one of the first encounters people have with teamwork. These early experiences mirror group projects in the career and higher education world. At the basic level, people assigned to a project need to have the same goal or interest. Without this, the group function falls apart. 

That's true in kindergarten, but it's more so in the workplace!

One of the key aspects to being a team player is having humility. 

"Recognize that no matter how much you know about it, there's always somebody who knows more about a given situation than you," sophomore Andrew Black says. 

Listening to the directions of others helps everyone to achieve the common and expressed goal. Another part of being humble is setting others people's interests above your own which is a Christian attitude to have. When you set other people's interests above your own, the project is likely to progress smoother. Furthermore, the finished product is likely to better. The finished product is a reflection of the team, notes Dr. Leslie Sillars, Professor of Journalism. This is an added incentive to wanting to work well on a team. 

However, sometimes things do not always go smoothly the way we want it to. That is why knowing how to diffuse tense situations is equally important.

2. Conflict Resolution

Everyone deals with crises and everyone has problems, and understanding the best way to resolve conflict is extremely critical.  Our first piece of advice is to learn to not project your personal hardships on other people. It is important to remember that in a professional setting, everyone needs to come together to support the common goal. You have to be able to set your personal problems aside for the moment.

Second, de-escalation is one of the first steps to managing conflict.  Dr. Sillars, the professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College, encourages his students to use the appropriate tone when working with others.

Your tone of voice can usually de-escalate problems if not outright avoid them. Your tone of voice often mirrors the emotions you're feeling. Negative feelings such as anger, hatred, or pride mirrors the tone of our voices. Therefore, controlling your tone of voice helps you to manage your emotions in a positive way. It helps you to not act out on those negative emotions. 

Being able to communicate clearly also helps with resolving conflict.

Clear and respectful conversations can fix problems that you might be encountering. This is especially important for leaders when they have to correct one of their employee's behavior or work. Leaders need to be able to communicate clearly, what they are doing wrong, how to do the task correctly, and encourage them in a meaningful way. Communicating these concepts can help to develop a healthy and positive work environment.

3. Flexibility

One aspect of good teamwork and effective conflict resolution is the ability to be flexible. Being flexible requires workers to be relaxed. When something does not go according to plan, then leaders and workers need to adjust accordingly. Leaders need to be able to come up or follow a new plan and workers need to be able to work in a different way. To be flexible you need to make a plan, ironically. 

"I think if you have a good plan, even if it's a loose plan, then you can kind of improvise off of it when the occasion arises and that way you're not left totally without resources when something changes," said junior Elizabeth Russell. 

Sometimes it is hard to be flexible because we think that we are in control. When plans change, it is a reminder that we are not in control. In reality, God is in control. We can make plans, but God determines whether our plans will succeed or not.

Takeaway

Developing soft skills takes a lot of practice and experience if it does not come naturally to you. However, the time and the effort is well worth it since it is necessary to succeed in the career world and in your personal life! Keep at it! To learn more about a biblical understanding of soft skills, we would recommend taking  a look at the book of Proverbs; it's full of timeless advice that will serve you well in today's world.

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Soft skills is a big part of college life too! 
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