Get All Access for $5/mo

How To Improve Your Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence in 7 Easy Steps Using these simple but effective approaches will help a person in their business, life and relationships.

By Zamir Shukho Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Soft skills are crucial in business — they can help you to reach your goals.
  • Great leaders know how to connect with their team on a personal level and create a positive work environment where everyone can thrive and achieve more.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We are not born with certain skills, though it could be such a great default option, right? If we could choose the level of patience, emotional intelligence and empathy right away, we would overcome all life challenges much easier. So, what are soft skills? Can you learn them? Why can they add some extra points when you are networking or looking for a job?

Soft skills are qualities and social abilities that show how well someone can interact with others. At work, they go alongside hard skills (practical job abilities), which are about what a person knows and can do in their job.

In the fast-changing world of business (and not just business), success isn't just about what you know — it's also about how you connect with others. That's where soft skills come into play. They're the secret sauce that helps you communicate, lead and problem-solve your way to the top. In this article, I want to explore why soft skills are so crucial in business and how they can help you reach your goals.

Related: What are Soft Skills and Which Do You Need For Success

Hard skills vs. soft skills

Today, soft skills are all about how you interact with people — communication, empathy and adaptability. The last one is always tested when you are looking for a new job or moving to another country. Unlike hard skills, which you can learn from formal education, soft skills are more about intuition and experience. They're the qualities that make you a great listener, a supportive teammate, and a problem-solver who thinks outside the box.

What is the difference between a soft skill and a hard skill? Hard skills can be measured and are usually acquired through training, education and practice. They are the abilities needed to perform a specific task or job. For example, hard skills in engineering might include proficiency in coding languages, while hard skills in healthcare might include medical procedures or knowledge of pharmaceuticals. In many professions, hard skills are essential for completing tasks efficiently and effectively. Soft skills are behavioral and interpersonal skills that relate to how effectively people interact with others and handle situations.

Soft and hard skills are important for success in most careers. However, the relative importance of each can depend on factors such as the nature of the job, the industry, the organizational culture and the specific requirements of the role. In many cases, employers value a combination of hard and soft skills, recognizing that individuals with diverse skill sets are often better equipped to handle the challenges of the modern workplace.

Related: Why Prioritizing Soft Skills in Hiring is Crucial to The Modern Workplace

Soft skills and business

From my experience, I can say that being a leader isn't just about giving orders — it's about inspiring and motivating your team. Great leaders know how to connect with their team on a personal level and create a positive work environment where everyone can thrive and achieve more.

Leaders (by that, I mean CEOs, Founders etc.) with strong soft skills are highly valued in today's professional landscape for several reasons. Firstly, effective communication lies at the heart of leadership, and soft skills such as empathy, active listening and clarity enable leaders to convey their vision and expectations clearly while also understanding and addressing the concerns of their team members.

Moreover, soft skills are essential for building strong relationships within the team. Leaders who demonstrate empathy, interpersonal skills and a genuine interest in their team members' well-being can establish personal connections, inspiring loyalty and commitment. This ability to connect with individuals and understand their unique perspectives enables leaders to motivate and empower their teams, driving performance and productivity.

Conflict situations in business are inevitable. Soft skills also play a crucial role in conflict resolution and problem-solving. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence can navigate disagreements and tensions within the team with tact and diplomacy, facilitating constructive dialogue and finding mutually beneficial solutions.

Related: The 5 Soft Skills of Every Good Employee

Can you develop soft skills?

Let's imagine you already have good soft skills, but there is always room for improvement. To broaden your skill set, you need to have an open mind and desire to develop personally and professionally. Various training and workshops are beneficial. Once you attend those trainings, you can practice your soft skills by getting feedback from your family, friends and colleagues and working towards their improvement. Sometimes, it's good to have self-reflection to identify your strengths and weaknesses and highlight points for future growth.

Lastly, for valuable guidance, it might be a good idea to have a mentor, especially a seasoned manager in a company who has worked with hundreds of people, managed different teams and has experience in communications on different levels.

Working with a mentor can help you improve your soft skills and your job performance and build better relationships with colleagues – this is a path towards a successful career. There is a framework that I follow when it comes to emotional intelligence or soft skills:

#1. Show empathy. This means imagining yourself in other people's shoes and trying to understand them rather than trying to fix them.

#2. Assume good intentions from people. First, believe that people mean well and show them trust. Then, you can ask questions later, which helps build good relationships.

#3. Try to pause before reacting to a situation or in communication you need to do. You know you need to stop, think and respond because emotions can often hinder the conversation rather than help it. So, don't rush into replying too fast – pause, take a deep breath and then continue with what you really mean and want to say.

#4. Ask before assuming. Please let the other person explain what they meant, what they wanted, their worries, or their viewpoint on the situation because none of us are mind readers. Clarify any confusion by asking direct questions.

#5. Keep your promises because they give your words a lot of credibility. It allows people to rely on you as a person, leader, colleague, or partner. Reliability builds trust and respect, which will pay off in the long term.

#6. Accept and own your mistakes. Admitting where you did something wrong shows strength and allows you to learn and move forward. When other smart people surround you, it's very appreciated that you act as an adult, understand that you also make mistakes, and be willing to fix them.

#7. Be grateful and say "thank you" to people, appreciating their efforts.

Using these simple but effective approaches will help a person in their business, in their life and in their relationships with others, and will be deeply appreciated by everybody around you.

Want to see more stories like this? Join Entrepreneur+ and get all access to our site for less than $1/week.

Learn More
Zamir Shukho

Founder & General Partner at Vibranium.VC

Zamir Shukho is the CEO and Founder of the Vibranium.VC venture fund based in SV. With 20 years of professional experience, he has a background as a serial entrepreneur having created 10 companies and organizations. He is also an expert in venture capital, management, and corporate innovation.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


How to Close the Trust Gap Between You and Your Team — 5 Strategies for Leaders

Trust is tanking in your workplace. Here's how to fix it and become the boss your team needs to succeed.


6 Cost-Effective Ways to Acquire Brand Ambassadors

Boost your brand's visibility and credibility with budget-friendly strategies for acquiring brand ambassadors.

Health & Wellness

Get a Year of Unlimited Yoga Class Downloads for Only $23 Through June 17

Regular exercise has been proven to increase energy and focus, both of which are valuable to entrepreneurs and well-known benefits of yoga.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Side Hustle

'The Work Just Fills My Soul': She Turned Her Creative Side Hustle Into a 6-Figure 'Dream' Business

Kayla Valerio, owner of vivid hair salon Haus of Color, transformed her passion into a lucrative venture.

Business Culture

Why Remote Work Policies Are Good For the Environment

Remote work policies are crucial for ESG guidelines. Embracing remote work can positively impact your business and employees.