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Soft Skills - Types
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Soft Skills - Types 

Soft Skills are not just a matter of being friendly or amiable. Moreover, even if it was possible to give a norm for the aforementioned, it would be very difficult to provide a kind of ‘standard’ that decides whether behavior is friendly or nice enough to achieve results when working in a group. Also, depending on the situation, it is sometimes even not that smart to be very friendly. There are occasions where a firm, vigorous action is needed, and in that case friendliness is not the most obvious choice to make things work. But Soft Skills, no matter what they are, have everything to do with communicating. Therefore, Soft Skills can be divided into various types of communication.

The following Soft Skills Types can be distinguished: 

Informative, instructive, explanatory Soft Skills. 
Convincing, negotiating, decisive Soft Skills. 
Listening and monitoring Soft Skills. 
Communicative, socializing Soft Skills.

Informative, Instructive, Explanatory Soft Skills 

In the case of informative, instructive and explanatory Soft Skills, the main issue is the conversation, as a message has to be conveyed. Make sure that the attention of all participants is fixed on the subject that has to be passed on. Make sure that everybody is able to hear what is told. The use of presentation material, flip charts or a white board will support verbal information. 

Do not only focus on the story that has to be told, but also pay attention to the questions that come up. These questions will provide insight into how well the audience understands what is being told. Sometimes questions provide information on the degree of resistance within the audience. As long as people offer resistance, no information, no instruction and no form of explanation will get across. 

Sometimes it is necessary to explain matters once again in smaller groups. Do not hesitate to do this. The focal point is to get the information, instruction or explanation across.

The most common way to pass on information, instructions or explanations to an audience is by way of a presentation although using the Interview tool here will also work. The questions that pop up during the interview provide a clear view on what the audience really wants to know, and by answering the questions the information, instruction or explanation can be given in a less academic way.

Convincing, Negotiating, Decisive Soft Skills. 

The world is not always in agreement nor does it act like we would like to see it act. This is the reason why convincing, negotiating and decisive Soft Skills are necessary. In order to get a point across it is important to be convincing and firm. At the same time the art is to know when to be convincing or decisive and when enough time has been spent on negotiations.

By nature, negotiation seems to have confrontational and conflicting aspects. But it is not possible to convince people by treating them in an aggressive or intimidating way. Aggression or an attack will always lead to a counterattack and could finally end up as an ordinary quarrel. So, try to avoid attacks. Kicking is very seldom necessary. But if it is, hit hard!

When somebody or a group of people has to be convinced, it is very tempting to use words that actually add nothing to the message, although they do add to a negative atmosphere. Words like ‘obviously’, ‘generous’, ‘fair’, ‘reasonable’. These words will not convince the audience; they will just irritate them. They suggest that even the obvious is not understood and that they are unfair and unreasonable. It will do nothing but make them cross and very unwilling to co-operate. 

Listening and Monitoring Soft Skills

Listening is not only a matter of using the ears; it is also a matter of using the eyes. When people are talking they are not only using their mouth to express words, but they also use body language to subconsciously emphasise what they are saying. So, ‘listening’ with the eyes is a way to ‘listen’ between the lines. See what people really mean while they speak. Do they take what they are saying very seriously or are they making a joke?

Listening does not mean that the conversation can be taken over as soon as the person talking has finished the sentence. Listening means concentrating on what people are telling, expressing an interest in what they are saying, and ensuring that what is implied is, in fact, understood. Using ‘listening Soft Skills’ will invite people to tell their story, and will therefore provide a lot of insight into the person. Experienced listeners are able to deduct, from what they hear and see, in what frame of mind the speaker is. Please note that experienced speakers, who in turn probably are experienced listeners as well, are able to control the amount of information they pass on through voice and body language. 

A simple rule is: if it takes some time before the answer to a rather simple question is given, something is the matter with this question or answer. Another simple rule is: when, during the answer, a short pause is needed to find a word, the speaker was thinking about using another word, but considered it inappropriate. So, the word that is used, does not carry the full emotion (whereas, the word that was replaced would have).

Communicative, Socializing Soft Skills

This Soft Skills type is a combination of the previous ones. Listening and talking should be in balance with each other. The purpose for using this communicative, socializing Soft Skill type is not solely to get something across or understand people better. The main purpose is to communicate, which means listening and speaking in a bi-directional way (interactively), and to have a pleasant conversation, in order to get the right atmosphere when working in groups. 

Socializing may seem a waste of time, but it is not! Socializing will help to understand the others in the group better, and an increased understanding of each other will improve the teamwork. The ‘pay-back’ occurs, once the team needs each other in difficult times. Therefore, socializing is seen as a medium and long-term investment.

Communication is not only words flowing from the mouth. Listening skills and the capability of empathizing with each other are also part of the communication process. Communication is sometimes defined as an intentional and unintentional exchange of symbolic information. Besides, symbolic information is a very personal thing. It is the model or picture someone has in mind when hearing a word; it is a personal interpretation of that word.

release 14/6/2003 - eMail: we.team@inter.nl.net - © 1999 Web-Enabled Team