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
- What Are Soft Skills?
- Why Are They So Important?
- How to Develop Soft Skills
- Extensive Resources to Develop Soft Skills
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
Marisa 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 mindset.
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).
The American 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.”
Google 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 them.
- 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 skills.
- 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 soft skills.
Consider the tips in the following useful articles:
- Skills to Pay the BillsMastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success
- Sharpening Soft Skills With Situational Learning
- Top 5 Soft Skills Training Materials for High School Students
- How to Identify and Develop Soft Skills
- 9 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
- Critical Thinking
- Growth Mindset
- Motivating Yourself
- Problem Solving
- Stress Management
- Work-Life Balance
External Soft Skills
- Conflict management
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Emotional Intelligence
- Office Politics
- Trust Building
Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to This Topic
See the following blogs which have posts related to this topic. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.
- Library’s Coaching Blog
- Library’s Crisis Management Blog
- Library’s Leadership Blog
- Library’s Supervision Blog
For the Category of Interpersonal Skills:
To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.
Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.