You can think of soft forks as upgrades to the existing Bitcoin blockchain. These upgrades go through extensive testing, discussion, and approvals by the entire network of nodes and miners before they can be implemented on the Bitcoin network due to its decentralized nature.

Once approval is signaled by all parties involved, the soft fork will go into effect at a specific time (block in chain) and the Bitcoin blockchain will continue on this new improved version.

Hard forks, on the other hand, cause the chain to split so that there is a new one and an old one, usually due to conflict rather than collaboration.