What Are Soft Skills and How to Learn Them?

See also: Transferable Skills

“Soft skills” is an umbrella term for abilities that help you communicate, think outside the box, and work as part of a team.

In other words, one needs soft skills not as a specialist but as a human being working with other human beings.

This article will describe these skills and point out where and how you can learn them.

'Skills' written in chalk on a blackboard.

What Skills Are There?

Hard skills are professional or technical skills. We acquire them through education and training, and hone them by applying them on the job. Hard skills are quite measurable: the creation of a bookmark template, the ability to translate from one language into another, the level of proficiency in a particular program, driving experience, etc.

Soft skills are universal skills not related to a certain profession or specialty. They reflect one’s character traits: one’s ability to communicate with people, effectively organize one’s time, think creatively, make decisions, and take responsibility.

Who Needs Soft Skills and Why?

In today's world, soft skills are necessary to achieve professional and personal success. They are considered critical in the job market and provide fast career growth and high salaries. People often promote and pay more to specialists they like.

Top 10 Always Relevant Soft Skills

Communication skills

The ability to present yourself, an idea, a project, and be an interesting conversationalist is extremely important today. If you have a great idea but do not know how to present it, you are unlikely to find funding or support groups to implement it. Use any opportunities to develop these skills in yourself: meet new people, expand your horizons, and very soon, you will be able to find common ground with anyone.

Analytical and critical thinking

Many people, especially young professionals, cannot ask questions, prove facts, or think outside the box. A good way to develop these analytical and critical thinking skills in your employees is to announce an internal competition for the most economical, fastest, or otherwise best solution.

Listening skills

It’s important to be a good listener and actually hear what you're being told. Learn to listen, accept someone else's point of view, and admit that you are wrong (if you are). Many people find this very difficult. And in teamwork, you can't do anything without this skill.

Knowing how to work as part of a team

Every team has a leader and several performers. It is important to understand your role and play it well. At first glance, it seems very simple, but in reality, everyone wants to show off their best side and show they would be the best leader, trying to bait and provoke the assigned captain.

Setting and achieving goals

This skill is very important for every person. If you live and work without a goal, you’re just blundering around at random, not knowing where the road will take you. A set goal is half the battle. The other half involves persistence, hard work, and positive thinking.

Positive emotional attitude

Without this skill, you will have a hard time in your career and life. After all, it's hard to fall asleep at night, constantly thinking only about a bad outcome. Always wish the best for people, think positively, and then you will succeed.

Ability to solve conflicts

Mediators, who become the third party in a conflict and try to resolve it, are very popular nowadays. Mediation is a skill that can help you avoid destructive arguments, smooth over sharp edges, and respond appropriately to criticism. Again, this skill has to be cultivated through long-term training.

Learn how to be inspired by new ideas

A leader often ignites enthusiasm, gives instructions, and organizes people. Therefore, the inspirer is often the leader. But don't think that leadership traits are innate — they can and must be cultivated.

The ability to take responsibility

Take more responsibility, work harder than anyone else, constantly learn, and strive to perform your duties at 120%. Combine that with other skills described here, and you won’t have to wait long for career growth.

Self-organization and self-discipline

Self-organization and self-discipline lead to efficiency. Efficiency leads to success in all areas of life. Parents and educators should nurture this skill when you are young. When you get older, you should cultivate it yourself.

Why Are Soft Skills Needed?

One needs soft skills for more than building a career. They help you successfully learn and interact with the people closest to you: parents, relatives, and friends. The ability to communicate and articulate your thoughts helps, for example, quickly capture the audience's attention during a report or defending a thesis or make a good impression during an oral exam. Managing your emotions saves you from bad moods that prevent you from being productive. Managing time and prioritizing helps you save energy when preparing for basically anything, and planning skills help you achieve your goals faster.

How to Develop Soft Skills

Here are some of the pleasant ways to develop soft skills:

  • Quests: teach you to think outside the box, quickly identify a problem and find a solution, distribute roles in a team, listen to the opinion of others, and argue for your point of view.

  • Orienteering teaches you to think on your feet, make decisions, lead and follow, help other team members, and sense time correctly.

  • Board games — those that require constant interaction with other players — develop your ability to recognize emotions, negotiate, and anticipate other players' actions. These are games like "Mafia", "Monopoly", and the like.

  • Sports games, such as relay races, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and the like, train leadership, discipline, ability to deal with criticism, and accept defeat with dignity.

Close up of a game of Monopoly.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.


Knowledge can become obsolete, but soft skills cannot. Today, it's not enough to gain professional knowledge to have an edge on the job market. You also need soft skills that incorporate your professionalism in the world of other human beings. In other words, your expertise in working with objects should go along with your ability to interact with human subjects and thrive in the human world.

About the Author

Alexandr Fallen is an experienced content writer and digital marketing expert.