How to Teach Soft Skills

Getting the message across without shouting is a valuable soft skill.

"Soft skills" is a business term that refers to the cluster of business skills related to leadership, communication and decision making. Soft skills are distinguished from hard skills by being less technical and more social: soft skills mostly have to do with how you communicate and interact with people. To teach soft skills, you must have an abundance of soft skills to begin with, because teaching itself is a soft skill. However, with some practice and patience, you can easily teach soft skills to your students or employees.

Prepare an introduction that demonstrates soft skills in action. Give a presentation where you speak clearly, summarize information concisely and engage students or employees personally. Give your audience an idea of what soft skills look like by demonstrating them. After you finish your presentation, list the soft skills you used one by one. These skills should include elocution, organization, interaction, synopsis and memorization.

Provide students or employees with a soft skills checklist. Soft skills include leadership skills, communication skills, time management skills and communication skills. Each of these categories can be further broken down into job-specific skills, such as writing, speaking, scheduling, etc. Your checklist should include items that are relevant to your group.

Prepare a series of lessons peppered with stories and examples. The best way to illustrate soft skills is through anecdotes that show how a person used soft skills to obtain success. Stories of successful negotiation, diplomacy and leadership are best suited for this purpose.

Assign group exercises. Soft skills can only be learned interactively. Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organize and lead. Role plays, debates and strategy games are ideal for this purpose.

Lead group brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming sessions are perfect for soft skills training because they demand that participants exercise three of the most important soft skills: idea generation, critical thinking and articulate speech. A brainstorming session should start with a problem (e.g. "how can business "xyz" cut costs in department "pqr" without reducing revenues"), and invite each member of the group to offer thoughts on how to solve the problem.

Integrate technology. There are many learning technologies available for soft skills training. These include CD-ROMs, websites and DVDs. The great thing about learning-technology is that it allows students to engage in soft skills training at home, making it perfect for homework assignments. Audio and video courses let students see verbal skills and body language in action, while online courses let students complete writing and speaking exercises. There are many websites that offer soft skills courseware for virtually any skill set you can think of.

Assess learning through interactive evaluations. It is pointless to assign pen and paper tests for soft skills because the skills themselves can't be contained in simple answers. To properly test soft skills, you must assign evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning: debates, public speeches, persuasive essays, etc.

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.