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20 Practical Soft Skills Everyone Should Learn

20 Practical Soft Skills Everyone Should Learn
Every office, every building, everywhere you go, you see people who are just difficult to get on with. They can be obnoxious, rude, inconsiderate, or just plain clumsy. They may even be brilliant at what they do, but you just know that when it comes to socializing and interacting with people. They are terrible at it and you usually avoid these people whenever possible. Emotional intelligence, social graces, friendliness are just some of the things these people lack.
These things are known as “soft skills” and we all need them, otherwise we could end up as social outcasts or as ‘that weird guy’ who nobody wants to deal with.
To better improve your “soft skills”, here are 20 tips you can follow:
  1. How to remember people’s names, faces, or places. If you can remember at least one of these, you’re heading in the right direction.
  2. Opening successive doors for people. (It takes finesse if you’re doing it for multiple and consecutive sets of doors — and you have multiple people.)
  3. Keeping in contact with your relationships. A great way to hone your soft skills and maintain relationships.
  4. Learn to be a better listener. Don’t interrupt people, don’t try to control the conversation, and show genuine interest in what people are saying.
  5. Offer people something to drink and eat when they enter your home.
  6. Learn how to make fast healthy snacks for your visitors.
  7. The Elevator Rule. Let others out first. This also applies to “non-elevator” situations as well, such as on buses, boats, and trains.
  8. Practice writing emails to be short, respectful, and to the point. No one wants to read an essay in email format.
  9. Being discreet when giving tips to relevant service professionals. No one should see the money. This takes some finesse.
  10. Cell phone manners. No one wants to hear your conversation in public transport. It’s supposed to be a private conversation, not a public broadcast.
  11. Handwriting letters to people adds a personal touch. You can meet almost anyone with enough persistent handwritten letters.
  12. Take interest in the passions of others. This might mean feigning interest initially, but it’s likely that feigned interest will eventually transform itself into a genuine feeling.
  13. Taking pride in your appearance helps to make you feel good — and improves how people perceive you.
  14. If someone walks into a conversation, bring them up to speed or give them an idea of what you’re talking about…as well as a short intro. For example: “Kevin this is Frank, my friend from school. We were just talking about this new smartphone app.”
  15. Keep a mental note of people’s extroversion/introversion tendencies. It prepares you for their reaction to the events or situations around them and builds up your empathy.
  16. Make introductions. (Most people are awful at this and many more forget to ever do this… probably because they can’t remember people’s names.)
  17. Stay positive. Don’t whine and complain. It gives people a negative impression about your outlook on life and makes people think you are ‘grumpy’.
  18. Don’t babble. You know people who just won’t shut up. You usually avoid them because you want to engage in a conversation, not be talked at. Don’t be like them.
  19. Tolerance and patience. You will meet people who seem to have no redeeming qualities. Showing tolerance is a great way to accept people for who they are.
  20. Don’t argue. This doesn’t mean you should be a “yes man”, or act dumb. It means you should try to see things from their perspective or situation, even if you don’t agree. You maybe able to empathize with them.

Learning good social skills can make you more approachable, and people will see you in a better, more positive light. It will enhance your social aptitude and the more you practice it, the more you will improve in your sociability. It will help in your personal and work life.

Featured photo credit: Business portrait of tree presons – young man and two women having nice chat talk on modern office corridor via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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