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Soft Skills for Effective, Quality, Everyday Discourse

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| October 26, 2021

Difficult conversations occur every day, but they aren’t always as effective as you hope.

This blog explores how soft skills can be a life hack for challenging discourse, giving you the tools you need to make those tough conversations successful.

What Are Soft Skills?

The aroma of family dinner fills the house, and as you make your way to the kitchen, you hear it: your uncle ranting about something you disagree with.

Now you’re faced with the dilemma: Do you grab a snack and skip the tense dinner talk or dine and cringe through another fruitless debate?

Families and friendships have divided in the last couple of years through differing social and political opinions, and though it would be uncomplicated to walk away, mastering these six soft skills can make it easier to engage.

Soft skills aren’t the fluff on your resume, but the skills that are imperative to having solid communication and interpersonal connections with others. Soft skills fall under broad, key terms like communication skills, personality traits and emotional intelligence. This blog gives a brief overview of these heavy-hitting skills so you can navigate challenging discourse effectively.

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Communication Skills

Active Listening

When it comes to dinner, and other situations where you're committed for a defined period of time, active listening can be your friend. Actively listening is a respectful way to approach dialogue. This is especially important when you don’t agree with what you’re hearing. There is a lack of active listening when someone is so eager to speak, they interrupt constantly, engaging solely to give their opinion.

Actively listening means processing the points your uncle is making without formulating a response before he has finished speaking. This is essential for having productive dialogue and empowers you to go into the conversation ready to both learn and educate.

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Nonverbal Communication

Another important soft skill is nonverbal communication. What are your eyes, hands and breath doing when you’re not talking? You may not be speaking at dinner, but these nonverbal cues may give you away if you’re not careful.

Maintaining eye contact, relaxing your form and controlling your breathing are ways to improve your nonverbal communication in a tense social setting. By mastering your nonverbal cues, you’re doing your part to keep the atmosphere calm and respectful, making room for civil discourse.

Personality Traits

Growth Mindset

How do you deal with new information and being “wrong”? When you walk into a conversation with the expectation that you are right and will have to correct the person you are conversing with, then you don’t have a growth mindset. Adopting a growth mindset means you are open to being challenged, and with those challenges, you seek to learn what you can from the conversation or experience.

It can be uncomfortable to be wrong, but with effort, developing a growth mindset enables you to receive new information and change your mind. As a bonus, when you demonstrate the ability to receive and process new information rather than dismiss it, the person you’re engaging with is likely to let down their defense.

Adaptability

One of the more nebulous soft skills explored in this blog is adaptability, a personality trait that encourages you to widen your perspective with agility. This comes from understanding that others’ opinions and biases are formed from their experiences—ones that you haven’t necessarily lived or seen. 

Similar to having a growth mindset, adaptability means being able to build your skill set and change your behavior in response to a rapidly changing environment. Adaptability allows you to maneuver tricky, unpredictable conversations.

Emotional Intelligence

Levelheadedness

Being levelheaded is the ability to stay reasonable, rational and sound when engaging. This can be challenging when discourse is personal or emotional.

Opinions that make you cringe can be easily addressed with calm, rational reasons why you feel or think differently. For the best outcome, you’ll want to be careful to judge someone’s points as incorrect. Doing that may put them on the defensive, and you wouldn't appreciate it if that’s how they approached you.

Engaging with a levelheaded person allows us to lower our natural defense when we hear opinions we don’t understand or agree with, giving discourse the chance to be constructive.

Empathy

Empathy may also be your friend. Maybe your uncle is lonely, hard on his luck or stuck in an echo chamber he can't escape. 

A practice that can help maintain empathy is reminding yourself of a few things: You don’t know who this person has encountered to make them think this way; you don’t know if this person has been harmed within this context; and you don’t know if they have been given the patience and space to explore why they could be wrong without inflicting shame. 

Your ability to understand and share the feelings of another may just get you to dessert. You might also strike a chord that changes his tune.

A Final Note on Soft Skills

Whether it’s engaging in tough conversations with family at dinner or a stranger on the internet, honing these six soft skills can give you the tools you need to have effective, quality discourse, allowing us to better relate to each other and create a more productive way of engaging. Plus, doesn’t family dinner taste a little bit better when you’re not fighting?

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