Top 10 Soft Skills to Master

Soft skills is a term relating to a cluster of personal attributes that characterize relationships with other people, such as social graces, communication, cooperation, honesty, respect, responsibility, friendliness, and optimism.

Because companies are becoming more process and system driven and because job competition has increased at all levels, there has never been a time when soft skills offer more value to the market than they do today.

As a growing number of people with similar talents and education compete for the same jobs, promotions, and clients, soft skills become the differentiating factor separating one person from another. The little things you’ve been learning about in this blog now matter more than ever.

In writing this post I made a list of my top 50 soft skills; I then slowly and painful reduced that list to my top 10. As you read each skill, I challenge you to look in the mirror of truth and do an honest evaluation.

If you have the desire to improve a specific skill, click the title link and learn more about that skill and the benefits of mastering it. Make 2011 the year you take your people skills to a new level.

1.  The Art of Listening. If your family, friends, and colleagues were asked to rank your listening skills, what would they say? Do you interrupt? Do you try to control the conversation? Do you ask questions showing a genuine interest in what people are saying?

Being an attentive listener is one of the most important skills you can master, especially in this fast-paced world where everyone wants to talk and few have the patience to listen. Be intentional this next year to listen more and talk less.

2.  Cell Phone Etiquette. A friend told me about his colleague, a Realtor, who landed a $6,900,000 listing. As he was leaving the seller’s home, he causally asked why he had been selected over the other four Realtors. The seller said, “You were the only one who did not check your cell phone during the appointment.” The Realtor ended up selling the home, earning over $300K.

Cell phone addiction is out of control. This next year, challenge yourself to show respect when using your phone, both at work and at home.

3.  Show More Respect. People’s tolerance for being disrespected is as low as I have ever seen it. The days of advancing careers by stepping on the toes of co-workers are over. People deserve to be treated with respect and are now demanding it.

Look for the little things you can do to show more respect to others. This includes the teller at the bank. Treat people as human beings and not as pawns on your chess board. As you treat others with greater respect, they will admire you and so will the people who witness your actions.

4.  Authenticity. Because many people are less trusting than they have ever been and others are tired of being around people who are not genuine and real, there is a powerful trend towards authenticity.

Being authentic is when you are not trying to impress others nor are you acting like someone you are not. The authenticity I am referring to makes people comfortable, relaxed, and enjoy your presence.

5.  Show Interest in Others. How frequently do people show a genuine interest in you, your ideas, or interests? When was the last time a friend called you (without an agenda) just to see how you are doing? If your life is like mine, it doesn’t happen frequently.

Slow down and show an interest in those whose relationship you value. As you do, you will stand out from all the superficial relationships as someone who cares about others.

6.  Verbal Communication. According to a new research report by Kelly Services the traits individuals identify as the most important in creating their personal brands were their verbal communication skills. This includes such things as being friendly, clear, concise, confident, humble, and positive in the way you speak with others.

How you communicate with others verbally plays a defining role in how you are viewed. Think before you speak and take pride in the way you interact with others.

7.  Become More Responsible. As the speed of life has accelerated, so has the number of people are who are neglecting to do the things that are expected of them, including being late for appointments, failing to return calls and emails, and not completing projects on time.

Being responsible also includes admitting when you have made a mistake and accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions. Let today be the day that you stop making excuses and start doing the little things that are expected of you.

8.  Make Your Appearance an Asset. Very few things are more powerful in creating your brand than the visual imprint you make in people’s minds. When you take pride in your appearance, it makes you look good, it helps you feel good, and it increases your influence with others.

I have learned that, when it comes to appearance, it’s all about the little things. From the way your hair is combed, to the style of clothes you wear and the shine on your shoes—it all makes an impression on others.

9.  Control Your Emotional Energy. Most of what I hear going on today is negative. It’s like the recession has given everyone a free pass to find fault with everything. Whining and complaining have become a part of most conversations.

Leaders and employers know they can’t build a business when their people are focused on negative issues. It only takes one negative person to impact the atmosphere of an entire office; therefore, they are hiring and rewarding people who have a positive influence in their work environment.

Remember, where your attention goes, so goes your energy and attitude. Make a commitment to start focusing on positives and avoid the complainers who are dragging you down.

10.  Your Email Brand. Every email you send makes a small, but noticeable impression on others. The accumulation of these impressions forms your brand. Think about your goals and consider the person you need to become to achieve your goals. I encourage you to read the Email Tips Report and focus on improving your email brand.

George Gurney, a leader in the employment industry since 1976, said, “When it comes to job offers, the soft skills determine who gets the job. After many years of recruiting, I know for a fact that when all the candidates’ work experience, education, and hard skills are equal, the candidate with the best soft skills will win! . . . Soft skills can be best defined as the quality of a person’s charisma. ”

Let me challenge you to take inventory of your own soft skills. Make note of those you need to develop into strong and winning assets and then commit to working on them.

Improving your soft skills will have a positive impact on every part of your life.

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

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  • Hello Todd,
    In today’s competitive marketplace we must not only be on top of these top 10 soft skills, we better be hard at work on the other 40 you omitted this time. I will continue to strive for excellence on these “Still More” lessons in 2011.

    “To be a great communicator you must listen much more than you speak.”
    – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    “To be the best takes action, desire, dreams, effort, goals, hope, patience, persistence, support, time, vision and still more.” – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    “Learn more than most would want and give more than most would expect.”
    – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    "You can have anything you want; you just have to do whatever it takes to get it."
    - K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    “Some make fortunes others make differences let’s make both and begin today!”
    – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    "Being negative verbally or silently can never produce anything positively."
    – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    “A lot of little things done correctly and continually allow for BIG positive things to happen constantly.” – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    Being Hard On My Soft Skills,
    Kevin J. Kilroy

  • Hi Kevin,

    Well that was quite a list of quotes. I must have hit a sweet spot in your arsenal. They were all good, but this one was my favorite.

    “Some make fortunes others make differences let’s make both and begin today!”
    – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    I appreciate you!


  • DavidCookPottery

    Thanks, Todd. ALL of these things can show another that we truly CARE for them and make them a priority in our lives - in the moment and perhaps for all of our lives.

    Knowing we matter, that we care and that others care, is a great gift. And that is a gift we can share another that costs us nothing but our time and presence. What a joy to know we can, and many times do, have the opportunity to touch and encourage another for just a while.

    Who knows? The effect can last for a lifetime and we may be unaware of how much the "Little Things Matter" that we reach out and do for another. I just think this is so awesome.

    Thanks for such fine, encouraging and helpful things you share. I ALWAYS know there is good news with LTM. This is one man whose life has been touched by you forever. God bless and keep you in the New Year.

    Love and blessings always,
    Dave :-)

    Dr. David A. Cook
    118 Yost Farm Rd.
    Salisbury, NC 28146

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