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What are people skills and why are they important?

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 13 Mar 2023

People skills image

When job seeking, it’s easy to focus on the job-specific skills that employers are specifically asking for on job specs. However, there are skills that are just as important as coding, computing, AI etc. These are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ and people skills tend to sit in this category. It’s easy to discuss your strengths in an interview, when focusing on hard skills but what about the interests and skills that will help you stand out from the rest? People skills give you the tools to effectively communicate with your colleagues and teams at work, as well as the people around you on a day-to-day basis. Effective communication is one of the many keys to success and this article will help guide you through this. 

What exactly are people skills?

Unlike technical skills, people skills are qualities that help you talk, communicate, and get along with people at work. No matter what field of work you’re in, skills like this are highly sought after and can only help you become a better professional. 

It’s about communicating effectively with the people around you. Being able to not only socialise, but listen to others, be a good team player, help those around you and understand what it is your colleagues need. Don’t worry - it’s not about knowing exactly what people are thinking. Simply learn social cues and working in a team. These kinds of skills become stronger over time and it’s not everyone’s strong point. Just be honest and willing to listen and learn from the people around you. 

Why are they important?

Where people skills are important, they’re not everything. It’s important to point out that your technical skills are going to get you far, but people skills can push you that little bit further. They don’t come naturally to everyone, and they can be challenging to grasp, but it’s something that develops over time. Just because you’re not the best at something now doesn’t mean you won’t learn. 

That being said, people skills can be really important to organisations. Communication is key and being able to be proactive in the workplace, engage with your colleagues and integrate into a team is a massive must. Again, it takes time for some people, but your colleagues are there to help you also. Not just the other way around. People skills give you the ability to navigate the workplace and become a part of it. They open you up to different people in the business and can help you build your network. 

If you feel like these skills don’t come naturally to you, there are courses you can take and even weekly conversations with your manager may be useful to you. Use that time to discuss what you want to develop and go from there. If in doubt, they’re there to help!

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Examples of people skills

There are loads of different people skills that are important and no one has every single skill perfected. We’re all different, we learn and take in information in different ways. Give yourself time, if there’s something below you want to learn or work on, there’s time!

Communication - Talking to your colleagues is one thing but being able to communicate effectively is another. You need to ensure that they know what you’re looking for. If a team activity, it’s important to be clear about what you want from them and vice versa. Good communication isn’t just about you talking to them, but it’s about you listening and understanding what they need from you in that situation as well. 

Patience - Not everything happens easily. Things will go wrong, and people may misunderstand briefs and conversations, it’s normal. However, being able to keep your cool, figure out the problem and move past it is key. Patience really isn’t everyone’s strong point, especially when in a stressful situation. However, everyone deserves the kindness of patience. Give them time and any problems will be resolved. 

Confidence - This is another skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Being able to talk to people without worry, present in front of your colleagues or even having the confidence to stand up and discuss a situation when something isn’t working or isn’t right for you. Confidence comes in many shapes and forms, there is no right or wrong way. Just focus on being the most confident version of you. 

Be proactive - Sometimes you just have to get on with it. There may be a task at work that needs an extra pair of hands, you may have noticed something that needs changing, there’s loads of different examples, but the point is, do it. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do. If you’re able to, go and do it yourself. Or point it out to someone that can help. address the issue before it occurs. 

Trust - Trust doesn’t come easily, your colleagues have to earn yours and you have to earn theirs. This develops over time but being someone that your colleagues can trust is a really invaluable skill. Trust that your team will be there to help you and you, trust in everyone’s abilities. Placing trust in your team can be one of the most difficult skills but one of the most rewarding. 

Empathy - Being able to recognise emotions can be really difficult. It can feel like a lot of pressure to be there for someone else, especially if you don’t know how to handle that situation. However, being someone that is there to listen and help can be an important part of work culture. This skill can help you build relationships and trust. another skill that is learnt overtime. 

Negotiation - Much like problem solving, negotiation skills are vital for reaching a conclusion that all parties are happy with. It can help avoid conflict in the workplace, create solutions to difficult problems and build better relationships with colleagues. You’re not going to get along 100% of the time. You may have different skills, ideas and morals, negotiation is a great way of finding common ground between everyone. 

There are so many different skills that are valuable to employers, and we all have something different to give. It’s not about learning how to master each and every skill mentioned above and more, it’s about becoming part of a team where you all have something to offer. We will work with loads of people throughout our careers that not only have their own skills but will help us develop our own. There is no one way to be and we can’t be good at everything. But your skills are more than just your technical, job-specific skills. So, don’t forget to talk about these in your next interview.