Can Soft Skills Be Taught?

 

How to trick yourself into becoming a people person.

The necessity of effective communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership, collaboration—soft skills, becomes clearer every day. Technology constantly shows us how we can be more efficient with our time, and our tolerance for wasted energy is sharply decreasing. In a survey by the Workforce Solutions Group, more than 60% of employers said that job applicants lacked “communication and interpersonal skills”, and ManpowerGroup's annual global Talent Shortage Survey reveals that almost 1 out of 5 employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they cannot find people with soft skills.

According to Hyper Island, "the employee of the future needs to have exceptional interpersonal skills, fine-tuned verbal and visual communication abilities... They don’t need to know everything, they just need to connect with enough people so that together, the team knows everything." Connect. If you read that and cringed, we at Bespoken have some good news for you: We passionately believe that how to have presence and soft skills can be taught. In fact, we believe that every one of us has an innate ability to communicate, and if you can learn how to optimize that ability, you will own your voice and connect in an authentic and powerful way. Follow these tips for effective professional communication to connect with others and make a lasting impression:

 

It Takes Practice

The only way to improve at anything is to do it and soft skills development is no exception. Start small and with people you are comfortable with or hire a professional development coach and practice in a safe space with a trusted outside eye. It will be uncomfortable, even daunting, at first but only because it is new and unfamiliar.

 

"The employee of the future needs to have exceptional interpersonal skills, fine-tuned verbal and visual communication abilities" - Hyper Island

 

#BEempathic

We know that the art of public speaking doesn't come naturally to 74% of us. Yet when we put ourselves in these very vulnerable situations—speaking in front of colleagues, walking into a room full of influential strangers—we don't acknowledge it as a shared experience. Recognizing it will deflate nerves and open the door to more meaningful connections.

Go Outside In

Use eye contact as a tool to trick people (and yourself!) into believing you are cool, calm and collected on the outside, even when you're jittery on the inside. Practice maintaining eye contact while taking deep breaths and releasing points of physical tension. Start with a good friend, then your deli guy and slowly work your comfort up to the professional level.

#BEconnected

The next time you walk into a networking situation, make it a goal to connect with one person. Instead of just giving out a business card, search for ways to make a memorable, personal connection. Maybe you vacationed in the same place or share a mentor—focusing on the personal will help you be yourself and release the professional pressure.

 

Instead of just giving out a business card, search for ways to make a memorable, personal connection.

 

Put Yourself Out There

Stop avoiding situations that call for soft skills and instead, seek them out on your own terms. Listen to yourself, and build in temptation bundles: Eat something you love right after, or attend an event at a familiar or cherished establishment. Being proactive (and selective) will make you feel less like the situation is happening to you and more in control of the unknown.

Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York dedicated to empowering professionals and entrepreneurs to speak with conviction and communicate with confidence through customized 1x1 and small group coaching. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate purposefully and powerfully. www.bespokenpartners.com.