The Four Facets of Soft Skills in Action

Soft skills are at the core of a person’s ability to perform in both personal and professional environments. Soft skills come in four main areas: Interpersonal skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork skills. Sharpening these four skills will help you achieve success and happiness in both work and your personal life.

By Donavan Outten

The Four Facets of Soft Skills in Action Interpersonal Skills
Employers appreciate employees who get along with people at all levels. Therefore, they seek employees who have good interpersonal skills in areas including communication, problem solving and teamwork. Interpersonal skills enable you to work with others harmoniously and professionally.

Effective interpersonal communication skills can increase your effectiveness at work, as a parent and as a partner in a relationship. In addition, it can help you to get closer to significant others, resolve problems or change what you don’t like in relationships at work and home.

Interpersonal skills have as much to do with knowing when and how to express emotion as they do with controlling it. The ability to manage feelings and handle stress is another aspect of interpersonal skills that has been found to be important for success. Empathy is a particularly important component, and researchers have known for years that it contributes to occupational success.

Communication Skills
Learning how to become an effective communicator is one of the most valuable skills you can learn. It helps you in your day-to-day personal, academic and professional life. Knowing that you can effectively speak and present to others gives you the confidence to do well in many spheres of life.

In your role as employee, you will find that being able to understand and communicate with your peers will make your job much easier and rewarding.
To be an effective oral communicator there are several areas that you should be aware of; these include eye contact, body language and style/tone. What makes a person a good communicator is not always what comes out of their mouth, but how well they pay attention to detail.

Communication skills require a mix of verbal, interpersonal and physical strategies to interact confidently and effectively with a range of audiences. A skilful communicator draws on a number of different means (e.g. graphical, visual, statistical, audio-visual and technological) to get the point across.

Problem-Solving Skills
Problem solving is a tool, a skill and a process. It is a tool because it can help you solve an immediate problem or achieve a goal. It is a skill because once you have learned it you can use it repeatedly, like the ability to ride a bicycle, add numbers or speak a language. It is also a process because it involves taking a number of steps.

There are many approaches to problem solving, depending on the nature of the problem and the people involved in the problem. The more traditional and rational the approach is it typically involves clarifying the description of the problem, analysing causes, identifying alternatives, assessing each alternative, choosing one, implementing it and evaluating whether the problem was solved or not.

Before you start to tackle the current problem, it is important to clearly understand the difficulty and why you are unhappy with the current situation. This may seem obvious, but it is important that you really think about and gather information about the problem, and make sure that the problem you are trying to solve is the “real” problem.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision: the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Andrew Carnegie

The effective use of teams to achieve an organisation’s strategic objectives and increase productivity can make the difference in keeping a healthy and positive work environment. Team building improves workforce morale and provides important opportunities for leadership; it also makes efficient use of the organisation’s talent.

Team-building learning programmes should focus on improving workforce productivity. In addition, they should build skills in time management, problem solving, risk taking, coaching and information sharing. Topics include employee motivation, leadership, customer service, diversity and communication.

The best strategy has always been to analyse the current situation and formulate the most suitable plan for improvement. This can lead to different services for different situations. The goal is always to determine the strengths and potential weaknesses of the team and how to help maximise the performance of the group.

Dr Donavan Outten is a trainer, consultant, coach and author. He is the president of Entitled Enterprise Consulting, Inc. which provides strategic tools for personal and professional development. His book Soft Skills, Becoming a Better You can be ordered at

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