Most people don't know that Steve Jobs was a big fan of soft skills and credited much of his early success to soft skills. Hard skills are abilities one can learn. They're actionable, and you can quantify them. But soft skills, which are the non-actionable traits, and interpersonal skills, which impact how you operate in a team, communicate, and collaborate, are much harder to teach and quantify. Pros in the digital, marketing and creative space need a strong blend of both kinds of skills, especially those who are experts in UX/UI design.
UX Designers tend to work collaboratively.. They are no longer left in their own little bubble. The market has changed significantly along with the rise of UX Design. It's no longer simply UI design or standard graphic design. UX Designers need to be able to take in information, process it, arrange it in a logical flow and then distill it back into valuable insights for your stakeholders and team.
What are the soft skills that you need most as a UX Designer?
Start with emotional intelligence. The key components of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. All of these join together to create a well-rounded person who has an understanding of themselves. Be self-aware, regulating your emotions so they don’t get the best of you. Cultivate resilience so everyday setbacks (or more significant ones) don’t derail you entirely. Discover how to interact with others empathetically. Take time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How does what you suggest for a project or new workflow impact someone else and their workload? Developing your sense of understanding how others feel can improve your interactions with others in a useful and positive way.
Mindfulness is an essential soft skill that, when applied, can be impactful for effective UX design. One way to increase mindfulness in the workplace is to be aware of your physical self and your breathing. Silence the inner chatter in your mind. Remove distractions from your workspace. This provides a better internal environment that sets the stage to enable you to think through the steps of a process with clarity, analyze data and information, and map common sense customer journeys. Calm and clear thinking can pave the way for you to be a more mindful and effective designer.
Here’s some solid advice: When you’re speaking with someone or you’re in a meeting discussing a project, if you listen long enough, you’ll likely get the answers to your questions. If not, you can ask a question that uncovers information that will benefit everyone involved. Are you a good listener? Often people think they are, but do you know how to listen with intentionality? A complimentary soft skill to self-awareness is deep listening. With deep listening, you focus your complete attention on what the other person is saying. Instead of thinking ahead about your answer or the comment you want to make. With deep listening, you can take in the information presented, hear the details and, many times, what’s not being said. This helps you to ask better, more informed questions. This style of listening tends to foster better quality conversations and collaboration.
One of the best ways to learn and develop these skills is to put them into practice as you work closely with designers and leaders who've mastered the desired soft skills you value and learn from them. Put yourself out there and cultivate your emotional intelligence, practice mindfulness and deep listening in the workplace. Designers who refine their soft skills can contribute to a more open and collaborative environment which produces a highly desirable end result.