Hone these soft skills to give yourself a competitive advantage in business – and life

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Have you ever noticed that certain people always seem to have an “edge”? They might not be the smartest, the richest or any of those things we associate with success…and yet, they always seem to do well for themselves. What is it about them? What gives them that edge?

While we may not have had the lucky breaks nor the trust fund to propel us into the societal/social stratosphere, we’re not imprisoned by our social standing. And I think everyone – if they choose to work at it – can achieve a competitive edge.

Here’s how:

Respect everyone

Treat people with respect. All people. Full stop. If you believe you are no better than everyone else it will shine a light on you. It will open doors for you and it will change how you approach life. Humility is vastly underrated and true humility is irresistible.

Reciprocate

It is not about you. It is about the other person. Treat people like they want to be treated. Seek out signals from other folks. If they are quiet and subdued offer that in return, if they are joyous give that back to them. If they are contemplative be that too. Take your cues from the people you are with. Take their lead.

Avoid idle chatter

Don’t engage in gossip. As the adage goes: small minds talk about people, average minds talk about things and great minds talk about ideas. Don’t get trapped in the minutiae; always aim to elevate the conversations.

Be present

If you are at a party, put away your phone. If you are out for lunch, put away your phone. Hell, just put away your phone. Engage people, be in the moment. Look around you; how many other people are on their phones? I rest my case.

Be authentic

Just be yourself – everyone else is taken, they say. Be authentic. Don’t try too hard to be someone else. Changing is not the same as acting. Be real. Be you.

Be honest

Never lie. The best thing about always telling the truth is you never have to remember what you said. And never lying is an integral part of integrity. Be someone people can count on.

Be miserable – just keep it to yourself

Smile. No one really wants to engage a sourpuss. Smile; you will be surprised at how easy it is to do and how easy it is for people to engage you.

Look sharp

Dress better than everyone else – but do not overdress. I always say dress like someone your clients would go to for advice.

Remember the big picture

The final advice is to never fall prey to the “Black Dot.”

What’s the Black Dot? Grab a blank sheet of paper and place a black dot in the middle of it with a marker. I have one of these framed and in my office. I look at it all the time. People see it on my wall and “What’s that?”

In return, I ask them, “what do you see?”
Most – if not all, reply, “a black dot.”

I tell them that black dot represents everything that’s going wrong with my life at the moment. “I’m having a bad day; I got up this morning had an argument with my wife, the cat jumped on the table as I was getting ready for work and spilled coffee on me, and so I had to go and get changed. Then I got stuck in traffic on the way to work, and I was super late. I lost my debit card last night and don’t have a dime on me.” And so on and so on. Poor me, right?

Everyone can achieve a competitive edge – if they choose to work at it.

Every time I find myself with an all-access pass to the pity party, I look at that picture and remember that the white space is everything that is right with my life. I have a great family, a nice home, a new car, a job and a career (I’ll leave my feelings about the cat out of this for the moment) that I love, and I have my health.

So how about it…take my advice and give yourself an edge. It’ll all make a difference. It’s worth it!

 

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