Everyone makes investments in life. It’s true that people usually think about investments in terms of monetary payoff. But this is looking further down the line than one really should. Instead it’s best to consider how investments in anything improve one’s ability to gain money. It’s obvious how this works out in cases of a direct monetary transmission. If one gains x amount of money for doing task y than the return of investment in one’s time is obvious. But one can often increase the overall return by framing things in a different way.

One of the more important examples are skills. This too might seem like an obvious statement at first. But the fact that it seems obvious is why it’s such an important lesson. And this is also why it’s something which can provide a huge advantage over one’s competition. The obvious part of advantages coming from skills are related to what one might study in school. These are the skills that are most easily quantified and held out to people in HR. But they’re only the most obvious of the skills a person might have. The other side of this skill set is known as a soft skill.

Soft skills can be thought of as non or difficult to quantify skills one needs to not just succeed in a job but excel. The main difference between these two points could be seen by using an example of someone with and without soft skills. Consider two people who need to make a sale. They have the statistics involved memorized and know the product perfectly. But imagine one of them has trouble talking to people. He just isn’t a “people person”. On the other side of this is someone who has the same knowledge, but with extra charisma. He likes to talk to people and people like talking to him.

Now one can imagine both people making the sale. If the client or customer has a vague interest in some other product which situation would have him coming back to talk through his questions? The first person didn’t provide much that couldn’t be found online. But the second person engaged the client within the conversation. The client enjoyed talking to him.

This is just one example from a whole toolkit of soft skills. However, one might wonder what could actually be done about the situation. One tends to assume that a “people person” is born rather than trained. But it’s not really the case. Some people do have a natural talent for soft skills. This is no different from some people having a natural talent for math. Nobody would suggest that the average person couldn’t learn math despite not being a prodigy. Likewise anyone can get a huge boost in productivity from soft skills training.

Of course one of the problems with defining soft skills is how difficult they are to quantify. One can see business going up. But tracking the reasoning behind a customer or client’s overall retention is difficult. But those studies have been done and the effects are clear. People who receive soft skills training typically see a 250% or more boost in overall return of investment.

And in the end it’s this return on investment which should always be on one’s mind in the business world. The time needed to learn soft skills isn’t insignificant. But it’s much smaller than one might assume. But it’s the return that’s so impressive about training. The return on investment is much higher than the investment itself. And what’s more, it’s a benefit that doesn’t trail off. In fact people will usually gain more skill and confidence with soft skills as they see their successes grow.