JKWhitehead & Associates

So, What Are These Things Called “Soft Skills”?

So, What Are These Things Called “Soft Skills”?

Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him.

~ P. T. Barnum


There are many websites and books that address Soft Skills, however I like the following definition because it is straight forward and concise: “’Soft Skills’ is a catch-all term referring to various behaviors that help people work and socialize well with others. In short, they are the good manners and personality traits needed to get along with others and build positive relationships. Unlike hard skills, which include a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform certain functional tasks, Soft Skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It’s often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get — and keep — the job.” http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/soft-skills

Soft Skills are “behaviors that help people work and socialize well with others”. To my mind, this hits the nail on the head. In the next chapter I wrote about the importance of teaching Soft Skills in our education system. I also wrote about the cost to the economy the lack of soft skills can cause. In this post and in the following weeks I want to expand on what Soft Skills are and why they are so important.

Having the technical skills and knowledge to successfully execute our job duties is only one part of being the best we can be in the workplace. In addition to these “hard” skills, we also need “soft” skills. As I stated above, Soft Skills are those skills that allow us to effectively work with others. No matter what our position, organization or industry, we work with people. Taking the time to build effective soft skills can lead to a more efficient, more harmonious, and more productive workplace, as well as to our own overall job happiness and satisfaction. Soft skills encompass both innate personality traits, such as optimism, and abilities that can be practiced, such as empathy. Like all skills, soft skills can be learned.

Soft skills are personal characteristics that allow us to effectively relate to others. Applying these skills helps us build stronger work relationships, work more productively, and maximize our career prospects. Often we place the focus of our career development efforts on hard skills – technological skills, sector-specific training, and other skills that specifically relate to our ability to get work-related tasks done. Unfortunately, development of this kind often happens at the expense of our soft skills. This is unfortunate, because unlike the sector-specific training, soft skills are directly transferrable to any job, organization, or industry. You will need them wherever you go — they are an investment worth making!

The Soft skills I cover in this book are:

  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Showing empathy
  • Networking
  • Self-confidence
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Professionalism
  • Team-building
  • Problem solving
  • Time & personal management
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Self-awareness
  • The Ability to learn


Previously I wrote about networking and the importance of this skill in developing our business. But networking, along with the other soft skills, aren’t just about business or building careers, they are about life and living. Over the next few weeks I will discuss the other five soft skills listed above and expand not only on their importance, but how we can develop them.


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