How to Develop Interpersonal and Soft Skills: Guidelines and Resources
- Guidelines for developing interpersonal and soft skills are included in
the books Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and
Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.
Sections of This Topic Include
You could read any 10 articles about the most important skills to have in your
life and work, and you will probably find mention of “soft skills”
in most of them. Other phrases you would find are “human skills” or
“people skills”, which are other phrase referring to essentially the
same type of skills. But what are soft skills? Wikipedia
gives one of the most comprehensive definitions:
Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication
skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social
intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable
people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well,
and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.
In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills,
which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. … Soft skills
have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. … Hard
skills can be learned and perfected over time, but soft skills are more difficult
to acquire and change.
Categories of Soft Skills
Morby suggests two categories, including internal and external soft skills.
Internals are about how you relate to yourself and include, for example, self-confidence,
self-awareness, accepting criticism, critical thinking, resilience and a growth
Examples of externals includes skills in collaboration, communications, interpersonal,
managing conflict, adaptability, networking, influencing and negotiating.
Trust the Research
There is good reason for the frequent mention of soft skills, especially in
the workplace. It is more than just a fad — plenty of research backs up their
importance. For example, the National
Soft Skills Association cites research conducted by Harvard University,
the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center. It found that 85% of job
success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills. The other 15%
of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).
Management Association writes “Research conducted with Fortune 500
CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon
Foundation, found that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills,
while only 25% on technical knowledge.”
did an internal study about the traits of the most innovative and productive
groups in the company. They found that the best teams were interdisciplinary
and included employees who had strong soft skills.
What Are the Benefits of Soft Skills in Life and Work?
It improves a person’s ability to:
- Better manage themselves by being more self-aware and accepting of themselves.
- Be more resilient and adaptable, especially in complex and challenging situations.
- Effectively work with others by having the self-confidence to give and receive
useful feedback and coaching with others.
- Really understand others by actively listening to them and empathizing with
- Deal with interpersonal and group conflicts by fully understanding and accepting
of other points of view.
- Solve complex problems by having more effective critical thinking and collaborative
- Be a more effective leader by having more self-confidence and influence.
- Advance in career development by having more effective networking.
First, remember that new learning is new knowledge, skills and abilities. New
knowledge is information that is useful to you somehow. New skills are being
able to effectively apply that new knowledge. New abilities are the capacity
to effectively apply those skills in a variety of situations. So, to develop
soft skills, you need to practice applying guidelines and materials about soft
skills, ideally with the guidance of someone who has strong skills in teaching
Consider the tips in the following useful articles:
to Pay the BillsMastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success
Soft Skills With Situational Learning
5 Soft Skills Training Materials for High School Students
to Identify and Develop Soft Skills
Ways to Enhance Your Soft Skills
Also consider forming
a study group in which members can practice their soft skills with each
In the following, we will use Marisa
Morby’s two categories of soft skills. The skills listed in each category
do not necessarily match those in her article.
Internal Soft Skills
External Soft Skills
Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to This Topic
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For the Category of Interpersonal Skills:
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