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In the professional world, the skills that help you succeed aren’t always linked to the specifics of your job. Being good with spreadsheets or presentations or whatever else you deal with on a daily basis is crucial, but it’s not the whole story.

As career expert Jim Morris writes in an insightful Daily Muse post titled “6 Important Life Skills for Everyone,” there are certain things we can all improve about ourselves, regardless of our industry or experience level.

Morris’ first skill is “mindfulness,” which he defines as “the ability to notice your emotional response to events, without reacting to them.” Say you’re in a meeting, and it seems a coworker is about to take credit for one of your ideas. You’re first instinct may be to speak up, but as Morris writes, it’s possible this colleague simply forgot and will realize his or her mistake in a few seconds. Better to wait it out than to jump down his or her throat.

The next skill he mentions is “collaborating across differences.” As workplaces become more and more diverse, the most successful companies will be the ones whose team members can look past — and actually embrace — differences in gender, religion, ethnic background, and other such characteristics and come together for the common good.

“The first step to develop this skill is to become more aware of your unconscious biases about people who are different than you,” Morris writes.

Next up is “resilience” — the ability to bounce back after setbacks and not get bogged down in negativity. When something goes horribly wrong, your first inclination might be to forget the whole thing and move on, but as Morris says, you should learn from your mistakes rather than pretend they never happened.

Life skill No. 4 has to do with time management: “working at your highest and best use.” As Morris explains, most jobs include high-value long-term projects and short-term daily tasks you’d rather not busy yourself with. One key to success is finding the right balance between the two. Think about the big picture, but pay attention to your email inbox.

Morris turns next to “empathy,” which he takes care to differentiate from sympathy. As he says, your coworkers don’t want you to feel bad for them. Empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and truly understanding what they’re going through. When a colleague is having a bad day, tell them you get how they’re feeling and why they’re upset and then offer to help.

Finally, there’s “inquiry.” Instead of being a know-it-all, be the type of person who asks thoughtful questions and shows constant curiosity. “The world’s hardest problems are going to be solved by curious people who can find the right questions to unlock new discoveries,” Morris writes.


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