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Blog #5: How do I use Soft Skills?

Updated: May 13, 2023


Soft skills are a critical component to your everyday life because . . . if there's one thing that will drive you crazy, it's getting along with other people! Sometimes, it can be just a minor irritation--other times it's a full-blown problem that just won't go away. Because you probably never took a class about soft skills, we will spend lots of time in this podcast delving deeper into this topic. We'll explore how soft skills can open doors for you, along with information about how you can make effective soft skills work for you right now. So, dive in! The fun's just starting.....


Defintion and Benefits:

DEFINITION: Soft skills are those things that you use everyday and don't even know it. The term was originally created by employers to elaborate on the specific requirements they wanted in future employees. These employers looked at a wide variety of requirements and created two terms--"hard" skills (Indeed Editorial Staff, 2021) or employee characteristics to distinguish them from "soft" skills (Kenton, 2021, Doyle, 2020). It should be emphasized that both sets of skills are considered by employers to be equally important. In addition, both are necessary for job success--and adult life in general (Kaur, 2015; Schmitt, 2020). As Diamond (2020) stresses, "Hard skills get you hired, soft skills get you fired".

There's lots of materials about soft skills (see References) with many, related definitions of soft skills. Here's a short list to get you started:

  • team-work

  • problem solving

  • communication

  • ethics

  • flexibility

  • optimism

  • empathy

  • listening

BENEFITS: Even though no one has ever taught you how to develop soft skills, you cannot under-estimate their benefits in adult life. For example, If you use any of the skills listed above, you'll see how they can change your life at home, at work, at school, and in the community. (See scenarios below.) For more info, click below:


Scenarios:

  1. James has worked behind the counter stocking and selling auto parts for the past 5 years. He really enjoys his job and hanging around with his buddies who work in the same shop. There's rumors going around that the store has been bought by a big company and "things are going to change". Everyone's speculating who will be kept on and who will be laid off. James is asked to meet with his supervisor. He's told he is being let go because he keeps complaining about the new computer system. His boss says, "James, you're a good worker, but you just aren't flexible enough. Everything the new company uses is computerized--and I just don't think you're ready for that." [Soft Skill: flexibility]

  2. Tameka is called into her professor's office for a private chat. Her instructor accuses her, along with two of her other class mates, of plagiarizing material in their final project. The professor explains that according to the University Code of Ethics, plagiarism is a wrongdoing which may lead to dismissal from the University. She will receive an "F" for the class and should see the Student Ombudsman as soon as possible. When asked for her response, Tameka says, "You know it's really your fault. If you would have been a better teacher, we wouldn't have to do whatever we can to get good grades." [Soft Skill: ethics]

  3. Patrick just can't seem to get along with women. He has had at least 6 different girlfriends in the last two years--and they keep dumping him. He thinks he's pretty good looking and a real catch for someone. For instance, he spends a lot of money on all of his girlfriends and really shows them a good time. However, invariably they have "the talk" where they tell him that he doesn't listen to them or try to understand them at all. Patrick just doesn't get it--what's wrong with him? He's tired of running around and wants a someone to be a life partner for him. [Soft Skill: empathy and listening]

Tips and Tricks: Soft skills open doors


Nothing breeds success like success. Nothing opens doors like successful soft skills. Two that can really make a difference in your life are an optimistic attitude and being able to socialize with anybody using small talk. The tricks below will give you ways to learn these new, important, skills.


Tip #1: Optimism



OPTIMISM DICE: This is one of the most popular activities that I have ever used with adolescents and adults. It can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups to address optimism and foster a positive attitude.

First, write the following information on a piece of paper or whiteboard:

§ Roll 1 on the dice: I am thankful for _______.

§ Roll 2 on the dice: This is a problem I recently solved ________.

§ Roll 3 on the dice: I like other people who are ________.

§ Roll 4 on the dice: I’m proud of my ability to __________.

§ Roll 5 on the dice: Something good I did for someone else is _________.

§ Roll 6 on the dice: When I do this, it makes me happy _______.


Second, roll a single dice and complete each statement when you get a certain number. For instance, if you roll a 5, say or write down something good you did for someone else. If you roll a 1, describe something or someone you are thankful for. You can just say this to yourself as a great way to start your day or get you back on target during stressful times. You can also do this with a partner to share your optimism or play this game in a small group. However you do this trick, I guarantee that you'll feel better that when you started!

Tip #2: Practice Small Talk


Nothing is harder for people to learn--and use--than small talk. While it often seems like the "glue" that holds social gatherings together, meeting strangers or people you don't know well can be a daunting experience. For folks with LD and dyslexia, it can seem overwhelming. Nevertheless, the soft skills of effective communication, teamwork, and empathy for others are the keys that open new doors for you in school, work, home, and community. One of the best ways to tackle the complex topic of small talk is to go to the source herself: Ellen DeGeneres. Check out her video below:

Now that you have an idea about what small talk is, try this trick to increase your own skill in this area.



Picture in your mind someone that you know as a brief acquaintance or would like to get to know better. Examples could be: classmates, co-workers, distant relatives, a neighbor, a colleague, or someone you see everyday on the train or in a restaurant. Once you have their face in mind, imagine you have asked them a few questions from the ones below:

  • when is your birthday and how you'd like to celebrate it

  • a recent or favorite trip

  • something about your home, neighborhood, or where you live

  • talk about your hobby or ask about their's

  • anything about sports or sports teams

  • something you'd like to do this weekend

  • your brothers and sisters or their brothers and sisters

  • something good that happened to you today or yesterday

  • your/their favorite film, TV show, podcast, or video game

  • anything about food or restaurants

  • something you're going to do tomorrow or the weekend

*Note: Don't forget that it's usually best to skip politics, religion, and gossip completely. Also, remember these three Golden Rules of conversation:

  1. Most folks love talking about themselves.

  2. It's always easier to listen more and speak less when you're nervous.

  3. Keep your focus on learning something new from each person you meet.


Now, put your imaginary role-play into reality. First, pick a few questions from the list and ask a trusted friend or family member to ask you these questions. Think about how you responded. Second, ask someone else the same questions. Listen carefully to each answer. Third, compare both sets of answers and reflect on what new information you've learned...


*Note: If you're too shy or nervous to try this by yourself, practice it first with a trusted friend or relative.


Tip #2: Put Soft Skills To Work for You



Trick #3: Write Your Own Code of Ethics


Nothing is simpler or more effective to help you become an ethical person that to write, draw, or dictate your OWN personal “Code of Ethics”. You have probably seen Codes of Ethics for businesses, professional organizations, or schools. For instance, doctors swear to a code of ethics when they take the Hippocratic Oath. So, how does that apply to you? The one way to really embrace your values and beliefs is to write them down. Many samples are available on the Web to get you started. Try these two websites for more information:

*Note: I've written my own Code of Ethics based on the ideas from the second website: "The Golden Rule is my Code of Ethics. I will treat others as I want others to treat me; with respect, courtesy, integrity and honesty. I will show others that I am an ethical person in everything I do and with everyone I meet--no matter their age, sex, race, culture, education, financial status, or spiritual beliefs. I will continue to practice my Code in every situation where life takes me."




Tip #4: Be the Reliability Hero

One soft skill that employers stress over and over is critical for an excellent employee is reliability. But, being dependable isn't only important at work--reliability is a life long skill vital for school and personal relationships as well. For instance, how many friends or family drive you crazy because they never show up on time? How often have you worked with a fellow student who "forgets" to do their assignments or meet deadlines? Both situations underscore the importance of reliability.

A great thing about reliability is that the way to get--or reinforce--this skill can be so much fun. For instance, if you want to increase your reliability, try volunteering for a cause you believe in or join a new sport. Other suggestions are: join the local Y for a new workout class; volunteer for some type of community service; become a dog walker at a local pet shelter; or help an older relative or person in your neighborhood. What about getting involved politically by passing out petitions or participating in religious activities?

Another great idea is to see if your company already supports local volunteer activities. For example, A T & T has an interesting program called A T & T Believes that focuses on local community issues. Both Target and Amazon have numerous corporate volunteer activities. During the last hurricane season, Amazon volunteers brought bottled water to thousands of homes in Texas and Mississippi. Of special interest, are volunteer activities where you get paid as part of a full time job. For more information, check out this link: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/10-companies-with-unique-volunteer-opportunities/


References:

*Note: While a lot of the material given below is very business-oriented, it is still valuable to understand and practice various soft skills. Some of the examples also apply to school and are equally relevant for personal relationships, home situations, and community settings.



TRANSITION CONNECTION:







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