Academics are only part of an Exercise Science education. Successful students will go beyond mastering hard skills of coursework and develop, or improve, soft skills as well. These soft skills, such as communication, creative thinking, motivation, etc., are a critical part in being an effective Exercise Physiologist, Nutritionist, Athletic Trainer, Rehabilitation Specialist or Coach.
What are the most important soft skills you should develop?
Every human interaction begins with communication, but not all communication is verbal. It’s been suggested that more than 60% of what we say, we say nonverbally through body language, eye contact or facial expressions. Developing good, open, verbal and nonverbal communication skills will help you work with clients or patients to achieve your goals for them.
People want to be heard and to know that what they’re saying is being understood. Active listening works best when you listen without interrupting and by asking good questions to what was said.
This is the ability to understand an individual’s reactions to their environment, their social group and the resulting behaviors and the resulting effect on behavior.
Being able to see all sides of a problem and different ways to solve an issue are inherent in Exercise Science. You should be able to examine the pros and cons of your patient or client needs and present options for them to achieve their goals.
Decision making goes hand in hand with critical thinking skills. Once issues are identified, you should have strong abilities to present a plan to correct behaviors and attitudes. Athletic Trainers may adjust a client’s exercise routine to meet anticipated results, a nutritionist may adjust a client’s diet to provide the best nutrition for overall health or a rehabilitation specialist will introduce a new therapy to a patient as they progress.
Effectively teaching, or showing, a client or a patient how to change behavior, physicality, attitude, etc. is an important soft skill for this field.
Monitoring a client’s progress is important, not only so that corrections may be made if needed; but, to show the patient or client, the improvements that are being made or areas needing additional work.
If you don’t enjoy working directly with people, this may not be the right subject matter for you. Athletic Trainers, Nutritionists, Exercise Physiologists, etc., all work closely with people to improve their lives. A desire to help people make individual changes, and incorporating what you’ve learned, will help you become successful.
This list may seem like common sense; but, to finely tune these skills are vital to meeting the needs of your client or patient. So, as you work your way through your academic studies, keep in mind there is more to your education.
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