In our previous post about soft skills (Do Soft Skills Matter?), we talked about why hard skills like technical knowledge and experience are usually seen as more valuable within the commodity sector than soft skills. This is typically because hard skills are easier to quantify than interpersonal skills like communication, flexibility, and work ethic.

At Twin Feathers we believe interpersonal skills can be just as important as hard skills. When the two combine they have the ability to highlight the true value of technical knowledge and expertise.

Soft Skills Defined.

According to Forbes Advisor “soft skills…are personal attributes and abilities that allow individuals to effectively interact with others in a professional setting.”

Example of Soft Skills: Communication. commodity advising; Twin Feathers team members advising a client

One important example of these attributes or skills is communication. In that same Forbes article, it states that:

“Effective communication is essential to build strong relationships with colleagues, clients and stakeholders. Not only does this involve the ability to convey messages in a clear and compelling way, but also the ability to understand the needs of others and respond to feedback.”

Important Communication Skills.

That article then goes on to list a few examples of communication skills.

  • Active listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication
Active Listening.

My grandfather had a poem that he loved to quote. This poem has become imprinted on my memory forimage of an owl wearing a suit in a library; wise owl many reasons, but it comes to mind especially when I think about communication.

A wise old owl lived in an oak,

The more he saw, the less he spoke,

The less he spoke, the more he heard,

Now wasn’t he a wise old bird?

As a young teenager I really disliked having that poem quoted to me.  Later in life however, I began to realize how wise my grandfather was and how important it was to listen with an active mind.

What is active listening?
image of a woman leaning forward with her hand to her ear: listening; soft skills matter: communication

Active listening involves paying attention to the speaker’s words and tone of voice, as well as using your words and body language to show your interest and understanding.

Listening with an active mind, or active listening, is described in the Harvard Business Review this way.

“Active listening is when you not only hear what someone is saying, but also attune to their thoughts and feelings. It turns a conversation into an active, non-competitive, two-way interaction.”

The article goes on to list examples of what this type of listening involves, such as paying attention to all the information a person is sharing, the words they use, their tone, and body language. It also involves staying calm and showing your interest and understanding of what is being shared through your words and body language.

Verbal Communication.
image of man sitting at desk, yelling into a phone receiver; soft skills matter: communication

In verbal communication your tone matters. It can emphasize your message or convey something completely different.

Along with active listening, another important communication skill is tone. “Tone matters!”  My mother said this phrase over and over to me while I was growing up.  I thought saying the right words was enough to get my message across. My mother focused on the tone used to deliver that message because many times it directly contradicted the words I said.

What is verbal communication?

Verbal communication combines words and the tone of voice used to present a more complete method of interaction.  Being aware of your tone allows you to wisely communicate with those around you.

Non-verbal Communication.

If tone helps provide more meaning to spoken words, your non-verbal communication functions similarly. It can often complete or emphasize your message, or, in some cases, convey something completely opposite. Sign language is one of the best examples of non-verbal communication.

What is non-verbal communication?
cartoon image of man in front of desk making a sign, pictures of sign language on wall

Facial expressions and body language are just as important to sign language as tone is to spoken language.

When people think about what sign language is they usually picture hand and finger motions. However, facial expressions and body language are an enormous part of this language, just as important as tone is in spoken language. Considering the importance of facial expressions and body language to sign language can help us understand the impact that our own non-verbal communication has on our interactions.

An example of non-verbal communication.
image of man in hoodie frowning, with arms crossed, non-verbal communication

Non-verbal clues give you the chance to continue the conversation and find out why a person’s words and body language don’t agree.

For example, a person could say, “Yes, that is fine,” but their crossed arms and deep frown gives you more information than their words alone convey. This additional information gives you the opportunity to ask questions and continue the conversation to find out why their verbal and non-verbal communication are not in agreement.

Communication Matters!
commodity management; communication

Connection is vital to the fuel industry, and we do not connect without effective communication!

These three skills – active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication – are all important pieces in becoming an effective communicator. Not practicing active listening could cause you to miss important details or appear like a selfish conversationalist. Using the right tone can mean the difference between a conversation continuing or being stopped in its tracks. While crossed arms and a clenched jaw may signal defiance and turn a conversation into a battle. All of these are facets of communication and need to be considered when trying to effectively connect and talk with others.

And connection is vital in the fuel industry. Strong relationships with our clients, colleagues, suppliers, and others make this industry work.  We cannot build strong relationships without connection, and we do not connect without effective communication!

Keep watching over the next few weeks as Twin Feathers continues our series Soft Skills Matter by exploring other skills like problem solving, flexibility, creativity and work ethic.