The difference between soft skills and personality traits

When people learn about soft skills for the first time, many are confused by their similarity to character traits and assume that soft skills are something that you either already have, or need to develop over time through life experience. While both personality traits and soft skills are equally important, soft skills have the benefit of being able to be learned and honed, which has caused them to become an increasingly valuable asset in the professional field.

So what exactly is the difference, you may be asking? Well, traits are features of your character that are either an existing aspect of your genetics or that have been developed through life experiences. These are the features that make up your personality and remain relatively constant throughout your lifetime. Skills on the other hand are tasks that you are able to perform well. They are also learned through experience, but can also be acquired (sometimes very quickly) through training.

For example, true empathy is a trait. Sure, empathy can perhaps be developed over time, but this is unlikely. A person with true empathy will be able to easily and naturally relate to others and will generally find it easy to get along with a wide range of people from all cultures. Diplomacy, however, is something that can be learned, no matter how much empathy you have. People with good diplomacy skills are also able to interact with others in a positive manner and – whether they find it easy or not – can give the impression that they are getting along with whomever they are interacting with. You can imagine how successful an empathetic diplomat would be!

Trait and Skill Development

Traits are generally not able to be developed and remain with a person throughout life; however, there are some instances – such as cultural adaptations, life challenges and major events – that may cause a person to develop new traits. A good example of this is when a person has children – usually their entire outlook on life shifts dramatically and they develop the traits required to parent successfully.

Soft skills, on the other hand, can be learned and refined through education, training and experiences. Once learned, soft skills can be improved upon and are widely transferrable between situations. For example, you can learn social skills during life and improve them with training. Social skills can then be used in your social life and at work.

The link between Traits and Skills

Some personality traits can simplify your ability to learn soft skills. For example, somebody with an extroverted personality will find it easier to learn communication and leadership skills. You can still learn communication and leadership skills without being extroverted though, so having related traits isn’t an essential to learning soft skills.

The benefits of Skills and Traits in the workplace

Somebody with a list of positive soft skills is more likely to be employed in a role where they are competing with people who have the same qualifications, but who lack soft skills. Employers don’t want somebody who can simply do their job well; they want somebody who will fit in to the culture of the work place and be able to transfer their skills to a variety of tasks.

Personality traits not only determine which position you’re likely to choose to work in, but they may also have an impact upon whether or not you’ll receive a specific position. Personality testing is commonly used these days during job interviews for the purpose of detecting communication styles, learning styles, the ability to work in a group and the ability to function under pressure.

The CFS Team
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