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31/05/2013

4 Ways You Can Improve Your Soft Skills.

Who wouldn't want a higher level of emotional intelligence or soft skills? Studies have shown that a high emotional quotient boosts career success, entrepreneurial potential, leadership talent, health, relationship satisfaction, humor, and happiness. Here are ways to improve your EQ, aka soft skills.

1. Your level of EQ is firm, but not rigid. Our ability to identify and manage our own and others' emotions is fairly stable over time, influenced by our early childhood experiences and even genetics. That does not mean we cannot change it, but, realistically, long-term improvements will require a great deal of dedication and guidance.
Everyone can change, but few people are seriously willing to try. Think about the worst boss you ever had
— how long would it take him to start coming across as more considerate, sociable, calm or positive? And that's the easier part — changing one's reputation. It is even harder to change one's internal EQ; in other words, you might still feel stressed out or angry on the inside, even if you manage not to show those emotions on the outside.

The bottom line is that some people are just naturally more grumpy, shy, self-centered or insecure, while other people are blessed with natural positivity, composure, and people-skills. However, no human behavior is unchangeable. One good piece of news is that EQ tends to increase with age, even without deliberate interventions. That's the technical way to say that (most people) mature with age.

2. Good coaching programs do work. Good news for all you coaches and your clients; bad news for the skeptics. While no program can get someone from 0 to 100 percent, a well-designed coaching intervention can easily achieve improvements of 25 percent.

3) But you can only improve if you get accurate feedback. While many ingredients are required for a good coaching program, the most important aspect of effective EQ-coaching is giving people accurate feedback. Most of us are generally unaware of how others see us — and this especially true for managers. As noted , "it is remarkable how many smart, highly motivated, and apparently responsible people rarely pause to contemplate their own behaviors."

In other words, we may not have a very accurate idea of how smart we are, but our notion of how nice we are is even less accurate. The main reason for this blind spot is wishful thinking or overconfidence: it is a well-documented (but rarely discussed) fact that, in any domain of competence, most people think they are better than they actually are. Thus any intervention focused on increasing EQ must begin by helping people understand what their real strengths and weaknesses are.

4) Some people are more coachable than others. Even the best coach and coaching methods will fail with certain clients (just imagine trying to coach Mike Sonko?). This is hardly surprising given that many coaching engagements are arranged by HR for, shall we say, unenthusiastic clients. On the one hand clients with better people skills, more empathy, and greater self-awareness are better equipped to improve. On the other hand, if you are sensitive to criticism, insecure, and worry about failure (all characteristics of people with a lower EQ) you should be more willing to change.

Adapted from the Harvard Business Review Blog:

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