Social awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on other people’s emotions and understand what is really going on with them
This means noticing how other people are feeling even if you don’t feel the same way. It’s easy to get caught up in your own emotions and forget to consider the perspective of the other person. Listening and observing are the most important elements of social awareness. We need to stop our internal voice, stop talking, stop anticipating the point the other person is trying to make and stop thinking about what to say next.
It takes practice to really watch people as you interact with them and get a sense of what they are thinking and feeling. It is quite difficult to be able to spot other people’s thought processes and feelings while you are in the middle of it.
Three strategies to improve social awareness
Watch body language – It is important for us to become experts at body language because then we’ll know how people are really feeling and we can decide how we want to react. Do a top to toe body language assessment of a person. Be careful not to stare. Once you tune into a person’s body language (for example, are they fidgeting, sighing or looking down?) their messages will become loud and clear.
Develop a “back pocket” question – Sometimes conversations don’t go as planned. Either the person isn’t talking as much as you’d like them to or giving you one word answers. The silences feel like eternity. Have a “just in case” question to bail you out of awkward silences. This strategy buys you time so you can get to know someone better and understand what they are thinking and feeling. For example, try “what do you think about [some current event]”. Avoid politics, religion and other potentially sensitive areas.
Go on a 10 minute tour – Life is not about the destination but about the journey. To become more socially aware we need to notice people along the way. Take some time and notice everyone you come into contact with. During any work day take just 10 minutes to observe things you don’t normally notice. Things such as what people’s work space looks like, the timing of when different people move around the office or when people seek interaction or stay at their desks. Other people’s moods can provide you with clues about how things are going collectively and individually. Don’t make too many assumptions or conclusions. Just simply observe. You will be amazed at what you learn.
Social awareness an Emotional Intelligence imperative
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