Soft skills: The interpersonal skills that go beyond technical acumen, product knowledge, and sales savvy, are often viewed as difficult to train; employees either have strong soft skills or they don’t, is the common refrain.
While it may be difficult to teach people how to be warm or to have charisma, you can improve soft skills by helping your team be better at communication. Whether you are supervising a team of sales professionals, call center employees, or even fellow managers, improving communication skills will facilitate the job tasks, both within your organization and for the customers you serve. For today’s soft skills training tip of the day, take note of the following communication tactics, and make sure to share them with your team.
Soft skills communication tip #1: Multitasking is great. Just not when you’re having a conversation.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve all become so adept at multitasking when doing everything – driving, watching TV, or working, that we feel we can also multitask while carrying on conversations. This is not the case, however, and attempting to check your email while you talk to a customer is one of the easiest ways to communicate that you really don’t care that much, and that you are not that invested in what your customer (or co-worker) has to say.
Give communication a high priority. Focus on the person you’re talking to, and focus on that person alone. Don’t surf the web, be organizing your desk, or be scrolling through text messages. Give the other person your undivided attention, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to truly listen, ask relevant questions, and help solve problems. Attempting to multitask while carrying on conversations wastes your customer’s time and yours.
Soft skills communication tip #2: Take notes during your conversations
The second soft skills tip may seem like a contradiction to tip #1 – don’t multitask, but it’s actually not. Take notes of the conversation you’re having (don’t take notes relating to your grocery list, in other words), noting important points, any follow-up that needs to take place, and a summary so that you can take action after the conversation. Often during conversations, we become so focused on our next point, that we stop paying attention to the actual discussion taking place. Taking notes will help you record important points or summarize what the other person said, which will allow you to better focus on the conversation in real time. You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to memorize conversations – no one will give you an award for that. Instead, take notes so you can focus and remember the important points.
Soft skills communication tip #3: Read the entire email. No, really.
If your inbox is barraged with emails (and really, whose isn’t?), you may feel like skimming emails is a good way to boost your productivity. Skimming emails and correspondence is a bit like doing only half the job – it’s too easy to miss important points, or to forget to respond to questions if you are only half paying attention to the email. It’s well worth it to take the time to carefully read emails, especially those from customers, so that you can craft a clear response. Make sure you address all of the points directed at you (bullet points are great). Taking time to read emails and respond thoroughly will save you time in the long run, as it often saves multiple emails back and forth to cover points that weren’t addressed.
Soft skills communication tip #4: Be deliberate about when you respond
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of the correspondence that you receive? Do you put off responses for days, or do you try to respond to everything at once, which causes you to neglect other high-priority aspects of your job? Create a communication schedule, which dictates when you will respond – for example: all emails within 24 hours, phone calls within 4 hours, text messages within 2 hours, etc. By giving yourself timeframes, you will be able to prioritize what you respond to, and you will give yourself boundaries for getting back to customers in a timely manner. Try it – you’ll be amazed at how much easier your day goes once you have a simple communication structure in place.
Great communication takes work
Being a great communicator doesn’t come naturally to most of us – and even for those who seem to have a natural knack for communicating, you’ll probably notice that there is a method to their madness. Start putting into practice our above soft skills communication tips, and see the difference it makes. Communication, like most things in life, takes awareness and practice to be truly great.