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When Soft is Hard

If you’ve ever been in a conversation that left you feeling frustrated, angry or in some other less than desirable state, there’s a high probability that you have witnessed first hand how hard soft skills can be. Soft skills essentially include emotional intelligence, communication – overall our ability to relate and connect with other human beings. Unless you’ve been holed up in a cave your entire life it is likely you have had some rich first hand experiences of relating that have gone well and not so well. So what is it that we can do to take ownership for and improve our side of the equation? See these tips below: Seek first to understand and then to be understood – I love the phrase made famous by Steven Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Often we can’t truly hear what the other person is saying because we are so busy formulating our rebuttal. Or our self talk is so loud (saying things like… that’s not right, hey I don’t like what they’re saying) that we don’t fully comprehend what the other person is saying. A good technique is to feedback or repeat back what you believe you heard the other person saying AND then craft and communicate your response. Observe vs. React – If you don’t agree with what is being said and you feel your positive emotional state is turning less than positive, observe it. Emotions are information. Acting on the emotion is a choice. Training your brain to let that thought and emotion walk on by rather than attaching to it and reacting are a skill that can be learned. When in doubt STOP – STOP. Say what! If I stop, how can I communicate? Relax ... STOP is an acronym to guide you through a difficult conversation. When we are conflicted (i.e. someone or something is causing us to move out of a peak positive emotional state and into a negative emotional state) train your brain to get back on track sooner rather than later. S = Step back and refocus. Before you go too far down the rabbit hole recognize what is happening and take back personal control. T = Take a deep breath. Odds are you are shallow breathing and getting less oxygen to your brain which is causing you to have less access to information prompting poor decision making. O = Observe your emotion. As per step 2, emotions are information. Recognize you can choose to watch your emotions vs. react to them. P = Pause before you take action (6 second rule). They call it the Ameglia hijack. That reptilian fight or flight part of our brain needs at least 6 seconds to relax. So, if need be politely excuse yourself and revisit the conversation when you are calm, cool and collected. In today’s fast paced world where multiple skill sets are required for workplace innovation and relationships are proven to improve our happiness and longevity soft matters. So improve your soft skills by getting to know yourself first and teach the old dog (i.e., you) some new tricks!

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