The Big List of Soft Skills and How to Use It

Professional network shake hands

When it comes to developing a career in IT, it's too often the case that aspiring and practicing professionals put too much weight on hard skills, and not enough weight on soft ones. I've written many, many times on this topic for GoCertify and other sites, but IT pros remain surprised to learn that soft skills are essential to career growth and development.


In fact, it's an unassailable truth that the higher you climb any career ladder — technical or management or otherwise — the more important soft skills become. That's why I'm returning to that topic today, to remind readers to devote at least some energy and attention to their cultivation and development.


Understanding Soft Skills


The term "soft skills" refers to special human abilities such as communication, personal interaction, leadership, creativity, team building, participation, and a great deal more. Soft skills are hard to quantify and measure. This means they are also hard to test for based on objective observations or measurements.


When it comes to soft skills, phrases like "I'll know them when I see them," or "You'll understand them by experiencing them for yourself," often come up. Suffice it to say that while such skills are important, they require a different approach to learning, developing, and maintaining them than is the case for something like SQL query optimization or crafting a compelling web page.


Learning and developing soft skills comes more from observation and practice. Whereas building hard or technical skills comes from tackling a body of knowledge, learning its principles and structures, and then putting those elements to work, the process of building soft skills is less direct and quantifiable.


It often requires stepping back from a work setting and pondering how to improve upon or add to one's ability to work and interact with others, across many modalities and dimensions. Also, there are a lot of soft skills out there, many of which are worth knowing about, and a fair number of which are worth tackling, learning about, and building for oneself.


The Big List of 87 Soft Skills


That's why I was tickled to discover Anna Mar's Simplicable soft skills inventory online. It's titled 87 Soft Skills (The Big List) and it's worth perusing and pondering repeatedly and at length. I've been thinking and writing about soft skills for more than 20 years now, and I got a lot from looking it over. Hopefully, you'll find it useful, too.


The list is broken up by categories, and then into individual skills, so it forms a kind of taxonomy that organizes soft skills pretty nicely. Click through to the next page for the full list.


Artistic expression and design sense are soft skills.

Communication Skills

? Verbal communication
? Humor
? Body Language
? Quick-wittedness
? Physical communication
? Listening
? Writing
? Presentation skills
? Storytelling
? Public speaking
? Visual Communication
? Interviewing



? Team building
? Decision making
? Strategic planning
? Performance management
? Coaching
? Supervising
? Mentoring
? Managing
? Delegation
? Manager management
? Dispute resolution
? Talent management
? Diplomacy
? Managing remote teams
? Giving feedback
? Managing virtual teams
? Managing difficult conversations
? Crisis management



? Facilitation
? Negotiation
? Selling
? Motivating
? Inspiring
? Collaborating
? Persuasion


Interpersonal skills

? Networking
? Conflict resolution
? Interpersonal relationships
? Personal branding
? Dealing with difficult people
? Office politics


Personal skills

? Emotional intelligence
? Resilience
? Self awareness
? Assertiveness
? Emotion management
? Competitiveness
? Stress management
? Self leadership
? Tolerance for change and uncertainty
? Self assessment
? Taking criticism
? Work-life balance
? Self confidence
? Friendliness
? Adaptibility
? Empathy



? Problem solving
? Troubleshooting
? Critical thinking
? Design sense
? Innovation
? Artistic sense


Professional Skills

? Organization
? Diversity awareness
? Planning
? Disability awareness
? Scheduling
? Intercultural competence
? Time management
? Training
? Meeting management
? Train the trainer
? Technology savvy
? Process improvement
? Technology trend awareness
? Knowledge management
? Business trend awareness
? Writing reports & proposals
? Research
? Customer service
? Business etiquette
? Entrepreneurial thinking
? Business ethics


Wow! Now THAT's what I call a big list of soft skills indeed. I see lots of items where I could stand to learn and grow, and I bet you will, too. And remember, it's important to turn your focus to soft skills from time to time, to help you develop and grow as a person and as a capable professional.


And, like me, as you advance in your life and career, you'll find yourself thinking about and working with these skills more and more as time goes by. Because we work with other people, anything we can do to improve our abilities to communicate and interact with others pays nice dividends.


What pays even better than that? Learning enough about soft skills to help others acquire and develop them, too. So please, invest in your soft skills portfolio, and share your returns on that investment with everyone you can.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.