As I’ve written before, you need more than “hard” – job specific – skills to raise your level of productivity and success. You also need “soft” skills, like the Emotional Control, Decision-Making, and Communication skills I wrote about here.
People have asked me to expand on that original post, so I’ve thought about the matter and come up with some additional “soft” skills that can help propel you toward the goals you’ve set for your work and your life.
Here they are:
It’s people who make the world go around, and it’s your ability to forge strong relationships with people that largely determines your level of happiness, as well as your level of productivity and success. Central to building strong relationships is empathy: the ability to recognize what others are feeling and to experience some of that same feeling yourself.
Sure, some people are born with a great deal of empathy, while some are born with less. But empathy is a character trait you can cultivate and strengthen, if you try.
One way is to ask people about their lived experiences: What are they feeling? How has the world treated them? How does that treatment compare with how you have been treated in the same or similar situations? Reflecting on what you learn about others’ experiences can help you become more sensitive in your future encounters.
Another way to cultivate your empathy is to study up on relationships: delve into books and films that explore emotional situations, read up on the psychology of emotional relationships, ask for feedback on yourself from friends and family. The more you learn about how relationships tend to go, the more easily you will recognize and understand how the people you encounter are feeling.
As you become more empathic, you will find others enjoying your company more and going farther out of their way to boost your productivity and success.
Learn as You Go
There are significant differences between “book learning” and “life experience.” Both are necessary for professional and personal growth. But often we put too little emphasis on learning as you go.
That’s why it’s important you develop your ability to find your way forward without a roadmap, and it’s also why you should try to squeeze every drop of learning and self-improvement out of every significant experience. For example, going into a situation you might think about:
- What are the important elements of the situation you’re facing?
- What might be the best “next step” that will bring you closer to the outcome you want?
Then later on, you might think about:
- Things you did right, things you did wrong, and things you can do better next time.
- The “life lessons” you took away from the experience.
- How broadly you can apply those “life lessons” to various situations.
Much of your work and your life comes at you without an instruction manual. That’s a big reason you’ll find the ability to navigate difficult situations by the seat of your pants will greatly boost your level of productivity and success.
In some situations – like stock-trading or gambling – it’s usually beneficial to cut your losses early, before you lose your entire stake. But in many other situations – like learning to play golf, moving up in an organization, or mastering a musical instrument – the best way to achieve your goals is to work through the early snags, allowing your efforts, tactics, and strategies enough time to produce the results you seek.
This ability to persist against adversity is an important skill that is often essential to memorable successes.
Life is uncertain, and it’s rare that you possess all the information that fully describes the situation you’re trying to navigate. As a result, in choosing what you will do in order to achieve your goal, you generally have no choice but to accept a certain amount of risk.
As a result, risk management is a critically important “soft” skill to understand and master.
Basically, sensible risk management involves:
- Understanding the situation well enough to recognize the risks involved in each course of action open to you.
- Assessing these risks accurately enough to understand the penalties and costs associated with each one.
- Taking steps to control the risks inherent in your chosen course of action, minimizing both the downsides and the chances of each one occurring.
Effective risk management empowers you to recognize and mitigate whatever risks you might encounter as you work to maximize your productivity and success.
Each of these “soft” skills is worth developing, because individually and together they greatly enhance your ability to accomplish whatever goals you aim for.
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