Cindi Reiman

Cindi Reiman is the President and Founder of the American Hospitality Academy (AHA), a company that has been providing leadership training and internships since 1986. AHA created Soft Skills AHA, which provides curriculums and professional development programs focusing on career readiness and the essential employability traits needed to be successful both in the workplace, and in life.

Articles From Cindi Reiman

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4 results
How to Be a Better Communicator at Work

Article / Updated 08-03-2023

Effective interpersonal communication is a critical soft skill, both in professional and personal interactions. It's the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and intention through active listening and verbal and nonverbal messages. To successfully communicate with others both at work and in life, you must first be able to connect with them. I want to repeat that because it’s so important: Connect first. Communicate second. That means you have to listen. Listen first and talk second. Wait. What? Who does that? People with effective interpersonal communication skills, that’s who. Interpersonal communication is all about making connections; it focuses on building meaningful relationships. Listening first, talking second Human beings have one mouth and two ears for a reason: so I would listen twice as much as I speak. Sadly, that’s not the way it works most of the time. Our ears may work perfectly well, and we may hear just fine. The problem is I don’t put them to work often enough. I don’t really listen. The difference between hearing and listening is important: Hearing is what happens when you receive the auditory stimulus of someone else speaking, and you go through motions of listening: nodding your head and/or changing your expressions while your mind and/or your fingers are busy doing something else. Listening is what happens when you receive the auditory stimulus but you also connect and communicate with your entire person and keep your mind focused on the message the speaker is conveying. Listening tells the person speaking to you, “I’m here, front and center, and I hear you. I get it.” Framing the walls of disconnection Making a connection with someone when you’re hearing but not listening is hard. If you’re doing something other than focusing on the conversation happening right in front of you — for example, thinking about what you want for lunch or what you want to do this weekend — rather than building an effective relationship, you’re erecting a wall of disconnection blocks that keeps you from really communicating and connecting. We need to talk about those pesky disconnection blocks and how people build walls with them. As they say, knowledge is power. The following are common disconnection blocks that get in the way of successful communication. Not all of them come into play in every personal and professional communication situation, but being aware of them when communicating with others at work and in life is essential. Think about your listening skills as you review each block. Rehearsing: When someone is talking and you’re busy silently rehearsing or planning your own reply, you’re breaking your listening concentration and blocking the opportunity for a real connection. Judging: If you’re focused on how the person you’re communicating with is dressed or how they look or speak, you can prejudge the speaker, dismiss their idea as unimportant or uninformed, and put up a disconnect block. Identifying: When you’re listening to someone tell a story but are so occupied thinking about your own experience that you launch into your own story before the person is finished telling theirs, you may lose sight of what the other person was trying to communicate, and you definitely miss the connection. Advising: If you try to offer advice before a person has finished explaining a situation, you may not fully understand the situation. Sparring: If you’re focused on disagreeing with what someone is saying, you’re probably not giving that person an honest chance to fully express their thoughts. Put-downs: When you use sarcastic comments to put down someone’s point of view, you can draw that person into an argumentative conversation in which neither of you hears a word the other says. The result: dis-connection. Being right: If you’re so intent on proving your point or adamantly refusing to admit to any wrongdoing, you may end up twisting the facts, shouting, and making excuses. These actions may confuse and upset both you and the person you’re talking to. Derailing: When you suddenly change the subject while someone is talking or joke about what they’re saying, you’re likely to weaken that speaker’s trust in both you and your ability to show understanding. Smoothing over: When you’ll do anything to avoid conflict or often choose to agree with what someone is saying simply because you want others to like you, you may appear to be supportive. However, never expressing a personal point of view is an obvious signal that you aren’t fully engaged in the conversation. Daydreaming: If you tune out while someone is talking to you and let your mind wander from random thought to random thought, you’ve completely disconnected from the conversation. Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is that people don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply. When you listen with curiosity, you don’t listen with the intent to reply. You listen for what’s behind the words. Completing the connection with the three Vs Effective interpersonal communication is less about how well you’re able to converse and more about how well you’re able to be understood. Your ability to make that oh-so-important connection comes into play. Connecting and communicating effectively with others is as easy as the three Vs: the visual, the vocal, and the verbal components of a conversation. The three Vs represent how much information you give and receive when you communicate with others. When you incorporate all three Vs into your interpersonal communication skill set, your personal and professional interactions can be amazingly easy, effective, and successful. To create and cultivate effective interpersonal communication skills and to make a 100 percent genuine connection with another person, you must communicate with your entire being: your ears, your eyes, your words, and your heart! Doing the math Most people probably think “verbal” is the most important of the three Vs for effective communication. After all, if you’re not saying anything, how can you possibly communicate? The real math tells a different story: Visual interpersonal communication (your body language) controls 55 percent of all interpersonal communication. Talk about actions speaking louder than words! Vocal interpersonal communication (the tone, quality, and rate of your speaking voice) controls 38 percent of all interpersonal communication. Verbal interpersonal communication (the actual words spoken) controls only 7 percent of all interpersonal communication. Surprise, surprise. On the interpersonal communication importance scale, verbal skills come in dead last. Yep. You read that right. Ninety-three percent of all information given and received in every single conversation is directly related to nonverbal communication skills, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that for effective and successful communicators, how you say it counts more than what you say. Lucky for you, you only need to sharpen two tools to cultivate your nonverbal communication skills, and you already have both: your eyes and your ears. When you connect with your ears, you give every conversation a 38 percent interpersonal communication boost. Add in your eyes, and you get an extra 55 percent of successful interpersonal communication and connection power. Speaking from the heart Because nonverbal communication elements make up 93 percent of each personal connection, finding a way to make the verbal element — the 7 percent — really, really count is crucial. Every single word matters. And to make the words matter, you also have to connect with your heart by speaking with sincerity and honesty. The ability to share and care matters as much in interpersonal communication as it does with your attitude.

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Top 10 Soft Skills Employers Seek

Article / Updated 04-14-2023

Today’s employers are seeking more from their employees than technical knowledge and expertise. They also are looking for people who are willing to work as team players, who possess strong communication and problem-solving skills, and who demonstrate good character, good work ethic, strong leadership, and a positive attitude in the workplace. In short, they’re looking for employees with soft skills. Think of the difference between hard and soft skills this way: Hard skills are what you do. Soft skills are how you do what you do. They’re the personal character traits, qualities, and habits that make you uniquely you. Your work ethic, your attitude, and the way you interact with other people are a few examples of soft skills. They’re the personal and interpersonal skills you bring with you to work and apply to your life every day. Some soft skills are somewhat subjective by nature, such as your attitude, your character, and your appearance and etiquette. And some soft skills are more objective or practical, such as time management, work ethic, cultural awareness and critical thinking. When the subjective and the objective/practical come together, they work in harmony to help you become not only a more well-rounded employee but also a more well-rounded person. Cultivating strong soft skills Cultivating a complete, strong soft skills set can make a significant positive impact on both your immediate and long-term career and life success. In fact, after your soft skills set becomes as good as (or better than) your hard skills set, you’re all set to achieve great things. You don’t just survive in the workplace and in the world; you thrive! If you ask people which of the soft skills is most important, you may find that different people rank different skills as number one. However, the general consensus is that the following ten are the essential skills you should work on developing. Attitude: Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your success in the workplace and in life. A positive attitude is necessary no matter what kind of job you have. Being optimistic and determined are the essence of what you need for career and life achievement, which is why more and more companies today look for attitude among job candidates. The company can later train for aptitude. Character: Good character doesn’t just happen. You develop your character every day by the choices you make in all you do. Diversity and cultural awareness: Having cultural awareness means you embrace diversity in the workplace and accept and appreciate differences among the people you work with. Cultivating cultural awareness allows you effectively and successfully socialize and work with people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and costly errors both in the workplace and in your personal life. To effectively communicate with others, you need them to clearly understand both your words and the actions that accompany them. Appearance and etiquette: Four seconds — that’s all you take to make a first, and lasting, impression on those you meet. Your appearance and your etiquette are often major factors in that initial impression, so think about what kind of first impression you want to make. Time management: Being on time — whether you’re arriving for an appointment or turning in a deadline-driven project — is important both professionally and personally. If you know someone who always arrives late, you may have first-hand experience with the frustration poor time management can cause. Teamwork: You may have heard the saying “There’s no I in team.” The ability to work and play well with others is essential because very few people work and live without needing to cooperate with others to reach a goal. After all, the ultimate goal of any company is to achieve overall effectiveness, but this strategy succeeds only when everyone on the team works together toward the same target. Work ethic: People aren’t born with a good work ethic. Each person has to make a choice to work hard regardless of whether they love what they’re doing or when it feels like a chore. When you demonstrate a good work ethic, those around you are more likely to notice and reward your effort. Critical thinking and problem solving: The ability to think for yourself and take ownership of your choices and decisions leads to a better understanding of the world and your place in it. Having your own point of view helps you make decisions to achieve successful outcomes, solve problems that arise, and communicate more effectively with others. Leadership: You demonstrate leadership through your everyday actions and interactions with others. A leader is effective because of who they are on the inside and how their personal qualities reflect on the outside. You don’t necessarily need a special set of talents to take a leadership role, but you do need to have a willingness to step forward to take responsibility for directing and encouraging other people. What’s the big deal about soft skills? Soft skills go by many different names — people skills, core skills, human skills, 21st-century skills, transitional skills, employability traits, and interpersonal skills. You’ll most likely encounter some or of all of these terms on job applications and in job interviews. The terms may change from company to company, but the meaning behind them is the same, and it’s very simple: Soft skills make the hard skills work. Soft skills make the hard skills work. This phrase bears repeating, and I use it often throughout this book. I hope you take it to heart so you can demonstrate it confidently and successfully in the workplace and in life. Here’s one way to look at it: Imagine buying some property at the top of a hill, but after you’ve made the purchase, you realize the path to get there is treacherous and overgrown. To get there, you have to clear the path, which will ultimately make traveling up and down the hill easier and more enjoyable. It will also make your property more appealing to other people. You have the hard skills you need to clear the path to the top, but do you have the personal perseverance to do the hard work? Do you have the positive attitude to enjoy the task? Do you have the character to keep your eye on the prize until you reach the very top? Well, that’s where soft skills come in. Soft skills can help you polish that ladder and really make it shine. Soft skills can make that ladder — and the goal at the top — look so pretty, so exciting, and so much fun that you can’t wait to start your climb. Soft skills can also make your hard skills shinier and more attractive to prospective employers and to other people. That’s right. Soft skills improve your performance and opportunity for success not only in the workplace but also in life. And in case you think the focus on soft skills is a hot trend in the business community that will soon burn itself out, I’m here to tell you that they’ve been important to workplace success for many, many years, as the following studies show: More than 100 years ago, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a study on engineering education authored by Charles Riborg Mann. In this study, 1,500 engineers replied to a questionnaire about what they believed to be the most important factors in determining probable success or failure as an engineer. Overwhelmingly, personal qualities (that is, soft skills) were considered seven times more important than knowledge of engineering science. In the spring of 2006, the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management conducted an in-depth study on the corporate perspective new entrants’ readiness for the U.S. workforce. The survey results indicated that far too many young people were inadequately prepared to be successful in the workplace. The report found that well over half of new high school–level workforce entrants were insufficiently prepared in the following workplace skills: oral and written communication, professionalism, work ethics, and critical thinking/problem solving. In a 2021 review of more than 80 million job postings across 22 industry sectors, the educational nonprofit organization America Succeeds discovered that almost two-thirds of job listings included soft skills among their qualifications, and seven of the ten most in-demand skills were soft. The same report found that certain professions, including management and business operations, actually prioritize soft skills.

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Developing Cultural Awareness, an Important Soft Skill

Article / Updated 01-27-2023

Listen to the article:Download audio Understanding and being open to people from different cultural backgrounds is an important soft skill in today's workplace, and an attribute employers look for in job candidates. Even when you know that celebrating diversity is important to your personal and professional success, you may sometimes struggle to accept the diversity you encounter, and gravitate toward people who are most like you and provide a sense of familiarity. You may not even be aware that you’re doing so, but you’re not alone. During childhood, people are conditioned by their experiences and environments to seek out what’s the same and to avoid what’s different. Each person is raised to view and to react to the world around them in certain ways, and these unique differences shape a person’s appearance, language, and behavior. These differences — along with cultural beliefs, traditions, and religion — shape people's views of themselves, others, and the world, which is why learning to understand and accept other cultures can sometimes be difficult. Because you look at people from another culture through your “me” filter, you may need to work to learn how to see and accept something or someone in a different way. Accepting that seeing is not always believing You probably believe that you see things as they truly are. However, your mind interprets what your eyes see and gives those things meaning. In other words, what you see is as much in your mind as it is in reality. When you consider that the mind of a person from one culture is going to assign different meaning to things than the mind of a person from another culture is, you’ve just arrived at the most fundamental of all cross-cultural problems: the fact that two people look at the same situation and see two entirely different things. Any behavior observed across the cultural divide has to be interpreted two ways: The meaning given to it by the person who performs the action The meaning given to it by the person who observes the action Only when these two meanings are the same do you have successful cross-cultural communication. And by successful, I’m saying that the meaning the doer intended is the same as the meaning the observer understood. Understanding interpretation is an important part of cultivating cultural awareness, so here’s a quick exercise to make the concept a little easier to understand: Read the following five behavior scenarios and write your immediate interpretation of that behavior in terms of your own cultural values, beliefs, or perceptions. Don’t give your responses too much thought. Just write what immediately comes to mind. A person comes to a meeting half an hour after the stated starting time. Your interpretation: A person you’re having a conversation with doesn’t look you in the eyes when speaking to you. Your interpretation: Two people are kissing each other while seated on a park bench. Your interpretation: Someone gives you the thumbs-up gesture. Your interpretation: Your personal interpretation of each situation determined where your mind went as you were reading each of these situational sentences. For example, you may have read item 4 and thought that the person was giving you a sign of encouragement or approval. However, in some Middle Eastern countries, giving someone a thumbs-up gesture sends the same message as raising a different finger in the United States. (Yep. That one.) Personal interpretations aren’t right or wrong. They’re personal. Everyone has their own interpretation of any situation, and respecting the fact that their interpretation isn’t right or wrong is important. After you understand and accept that interpretations are a personal matter, you can begin to cultivate tolerance and respect for others who see things differently than you do. Saying no to stereotyping Fostering the ability to understand, embrace, and respect the differences you see in others is critical to your success in the workplace and in life. One of the first and most significant steps in the process is to admit that you have personal biases, prejudices, and the tendency to apply stereotypes to others. All people have some biases and prejudices. Biases, prejudices, and the tendency to stereotype are culturally divisive behaviors that many (or maybe even most) people are prone to. After you become culturally aware and work not to act on those biases and prejudices, you can make positive and permanent work and life changes. Prejudice is being down on something you’re not up on. Stereotyping is the practice of assuming that similar people or groups of people think, act, look, feel, and believe the same things simply because they share the same culture. When you stereotype people, you prejudge them. Stereotyping tends to dehumanize people by lumping them all together. And no one wants that. Every person wants to be seen for who they are as an individual. Feeling negative about a certain person or avoiding a certain group of people simply because they’re different from you can minimize your worldview and affect your ability to work well with others. You may believe that you always treat others you meet as equals, but this ideal probably isn’t true at times, and you may not even realize you’re violating it. According to stereotyping studies, most people have biases and prejudices they aren’t even aware of that can have a major influence on the way they interact with others. Stepping on the stereotyping scale The first step to avoiding unconscious stereotyping behaviors is to identify the ways you may be practicing stereotyping. Grab your pen and paper and write your first thought that completes the following statements: All famous movie and television stars… All professional athletes… All vegetarians… All men with long hair… All women with tattoos… All politicians… Take a look at your responses. Did they come easily to you? If so, you may have a tendency to stereotype the people you meet at work and in life. Were most of your responses positive or negative? If they were mostly negative, you may have a tendency to be prejudiced and biased when meeting someone new and different from you. Any sentence about people that begins with the word all is stereotypical from the start. Recognizing how you stereotype Education is the key to change, and right here and now is a great opportunity to start educating yourself. After you begin to recognize your biases, prejudices, and tendency to stereotype, you can use your newly acquired knowledge to develop and practice a culture of tolerance, acceptance, and celebration both in the workplace and in life. The power of daily active practice, practice, practice improves your diversity and cultural awareness skills and leads to career and life success. Employers want to hire and promote people who work well with others. Use the following three simple exercises for daily practice in respecting diversity and developing cultural awareness: Become aware. Take the time to acknowledge your cultural conditioning and identify your stereotypes, biases, and prejudices. Be brave enough to reflect on both the positive and negative aspects of your own diversity and examine why you think the way you do. This process has you question things that you may never have questioned before. Educate yourself. Make an effort to learn more about cultural practices from other countries — their etiquette, traditions, and acceptable forms of communication. Make a genuine effort with your culturally diverse co-workers to learn about and respect your differences and to find similarities you can build on. Show respect. When you demonstrate the same respect to others that you want to receive from them, you’re acknowledging that you value all people, not only those who look, think, talk, and act the way you do. Each person is a unique individual, and everyone has much to contribute. Differences will always exist. Diversity will always be a part of the workplace and life. And that’s a good thing! All you have to do to learn how to respect diversity and cultivate cultural awareness is to remember that your mind is like a parachute: It works best when it’s open.

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Soft Skills For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 12-07-2022

Today’s employers want more from their employees than technical knowledge and expertise. They’re looking for people who are willing to work as team players, have strong communication and problem-solving skills, and demonstrate good character, good work ethic, leadership, and a positive workplace attitude. Soft skills (also called life skills) help you create a powerful, positive, and productive life outside of work. In fact, professional success starts with personal success, and a strong set of soft skills can go a long way to making both happen.

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