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What Are Soft Skills? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What are Soft Skills?
  • 1:00 Applying Soft Skills
  • 2:25 Soft Skills in Action
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chelsea Miles
During conversations with customers and co-workers, getting and receiving messages from one another is essential to resolving concerns and in general getting things done. Understanding what soft skills are and how to use them is key.

What Are Soft Skills?

Non-verbal cues, in a conversation with anyone, can say more than the actual words. Managing the cues to create a better situation requires the use of soft skills. In a work environment, there are two types of skills: hard and soft.

Hard skills are the technical skills you use each day to perform your job. Some examples would be your computer skills or procedural knowledge you apply in your job.

Soft skills, the topic of this lesson, are the subtle behaviors and communication styles that help make a work environment or interaction with another person easier to manage. Soft skill examples include communication skills, such as voice inflection and gestures. They also include attributes such as adaptability and flexibility. Other soft skills include:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creative Thinking
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Time Management
  • Self-Motivation

Applying Soft Skills

To see how soft skills apply, let's look at this scenario. Jay is a clothing store manager who receives a complaint from a customer, Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams brought back a shirt that he decided he did not want and requested a refund. He says the associate who helped him, Rick, would not take the shirt because he was one day past the 10-day return policy. Mr. Adams states Rick was rude and inflexible. Jay immediately apologizes for Rick's behavior and inflexibility. With a smile, he affirms that the information about the policy is correct, but because he is a longtime customer he is willing to offer the refund. He also assures the customer he will speak with Rick about the incident. In this instance, Jay uses the problem solving soft skill to let Mr. Adams know he can resolve the initial concern about the shirt and will address the issue with Rick. Taking quick decisive action with a smile is a subtle way to ease the customer's frustration and maintain customer loyalty. Jay will also use similar soft skills to maintain a stable work environment when confronting Rick.

This is not the only thing that Jay needs to discuss with Rick. Jay has also noticed Rick being late to work and Rick's co-workers have complained of Rick taking personal calls in front of customers. Jay will employ his communication and leadership skills to help Rick improve his adaptability and flexibility, personal accountability, and time management skills.

Soft Skills in Action

To help Rick change his behaviors to become a better employee, Jay set up a one-on-one session with Rick. He made a list of some of the things he would need to discuss with Rick. He would talk about:

  • Communication: conveying thoughts in a way to express ideas and influence change.
  • Leadership: an expression of authority that inspires others to act by gaining trust and credibility.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: the ability to allow for and accept change.
  • Personal Accountability: owning up to one's actions and behaviors.
  • Time Management: finding the best balance of activities and available time to accomplish goals.

When Rick enters Jay's office, Jay stands and thanks Rick for attending. This action shows Jay's leadership skills by letting Rick know his presence is appreciated and that Jay will lead the meeting. Jay makes Rick aware of the reasons for the meeting: inflexibility, poor communication, and time management. Jay gives Rick each scenario he has either witnessed or heard from a co-worker or customer. After hearing Rick's side of each situation, Jay explains that each situation requires soft skills that help create a better work environment and customer experience.

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