Soft skills, like good communication, listening, personal organisation and being able to teach others skills, are attributes that are sometimes harder to teach than technical skills. This is because soft skills are part of a person’s day to day life from when they are little and are ingrained into their behaviours. Therefore, it takes more time and focus to change the behaviours for your soft skills.
I’ve noticed that one easy way to be intentional about how you learn to change your habits is to put yourself into situations where you are forced to adjust the behaviours. I think that I’ve improved my soft skills through charity work.
I have been volunteering at the Lignum Vitae Club (LVC) charity since 2013. LVC was started in 1969 by the Jamaican High Commissioner’s wife and it’s mission is to support charitable causes which provide education and skills training opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people from Jamaica and the UK.
I decided to join the club because I wanted to help give back to the country of my heritage and help support other charities doing good work in relation to Jamaica.
When I began volunteering, a lot of the members were at least 27 years older than me, especially those on the Executive Committee. I’m a millennial and have grown up with tech. I easily adapt to and learn new software, trends and hardware. Because of this, I became the “technical guru” of the club.
But at times, it was hard to convey my new ideas using technological advances to people who didn’t understand it or the benefits. This is where I believe my soft skills have improved.
Here’s a short list of the skills that I think I’ve improved so far:
Communicating My Opinion
I’ve learned to be more aware of my audience when talking (my husband does tell me that I speak fast). So when I’m in a meeting explaining my view, opinion or new idea I make sure I communicate clearly and slowly, and to try not be sound condescending or in a way that can be construed as that. Because of my job and what I enjoy doing in my spare time, I pick up new skills quickly but I need to remember that what’s easy to me, may not be easy to others. So clear communication is key.
Speaking About New Tools or Technology
Another aspect of communication is being able to explain my ideas to implement to a non-technical audience. I’ve have a lot of ideas and I want these ideas to help the club to get bigger in reach and members. Since I’ve been at the club, we’ve set up a website which I currently run; we’ve redesigned the logo; signed up for most social networks; introduced new payment and donation methods to the club like JustTextGiving and just wait and see what I get done in the next 12 months. But it’s important that I explain the background and benefits of these new tools and systems to the other members. Most are used to using computers on a daily basis but if you’re not using them, the terminology used with these new tools may be confusing. I keep this in mind when trying to give a balanced but informative view on all new tech tools I suggest to the club.
Becoming More Diplomatic
Most of the club meetings are in person and a lot of the females in this group are Alphas. Being one of the youngest (and knowing that I like things done quickly), I’ve tried to be conscious of hearing and listening to the views of others. Ensuring I don’t cut people off when they’re speaking (a bad habit I have when I get excited, passionate or carried away) is something that I’ve definitely recognised and improved upon over the years. This helps me and the other members so everyone feels heard and that I’m generally being respectful.
Long Term Benefits For Me And The Charity Members
Developing your soft skills without an environment is difficult because you have no goal to reach or place practice.
Recognising that LVC is a good place to improve my soft skills means that when I’m around these women, I make a conscious decision to improve. Soon enough, I’ll have done this so often that these changes will be unconscious behaviours and hopefully make me a better person.
Identifying environments or events in your life that can help you to build upon your soft skills is something that I encourage you to do.
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