The ability to read a room is just as important as the ability to read a book. 

 

Social awareness is all about that guy.  You know the one. He is the person that just misses everything that’s going on around them in a conversation. It’s as if they are in a totally different meeting yet they are sitting right beside you. They are usually to themselves too much or linger around too long. Luckily this is a skill that we can impact and influence. 

Understanding Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to see someone’s emotions and understand what is really going on in the conversation. Have you ever walked away from a meeting or conversation to later find out that the true meaning of what was communicated was not at all what you took away from it? Social awareness is the skill to see all those things while you are in it at the moment. You are contributing and correctly accessing as things unfold. It’s one thing to analyze a conversation from afar than it is being right in the middle of the conversation. Social awareness helps you to stay sharp in your surroundings. 

Example of low Social Awareness
“Well, a big thing is that John needs to listen to what’s going on in meetings instead of thinking about what he is going to say. He’s dismissive of others if it’s a different perspective or idea from his own. He gets so caught up in his own thoughts that he doesn’t notice the nonverbals going on around him. Sometimes he’s not very social and other times he lingers too long.”

Example of high Social Awareness
“John is a great active listener. You can just tell that his mind is not somewhere else when he is with you. He can pick up on the emotional undercurrent in meetings and conversations and addresses those in a way that is both respectful and load lifting. He’s very good at understanding what’s going on around him.”

Tips to increase your Social Awareness

  • Watch for the non-verbals. A person needing stronger social awareness may come across as awkward or out of touch. This is because they often miss the non-verbal social cues. Watch for body language cues that the person is ready to move on from the topic or conversation. Continuing to make your point no longer adds any value and hurts relationships with enough repetition.
  • Work on your listening skills. Another key area to a victory in social awareness is great active listening skills. Remove all the distractions in your mind and focus strictly on just listening to the other person. Don’t worry about formulating your response here. Show the person that you are listening through your non-verbals and confirmation or clarification on key points that they make.  (More help on listening can be found in Passing the Baton Leadership Podcast #60 Listening.)
  • Feel the mood. To navigate a social setting well, you need to understand the feel of the room well. If its high energy, you don’t need to come in like an Eeyore. If it’s a serious business meeting or personal matter, you may want to leave the jokes at the door. Your demeanor and communication should match up to the feel.  
  • Be fully in the moment. Make sure that you are fully there physically, mentally and emotionally in the conversation. That may mean to pack up the laptop and put away the phone so that it’s not a distraction. It may mean not taking extensive notes in a meeting. Do what needs to be done to ensure that you are fully in the moment with the person. Many people miss things because they have their head in a computer or their face glued to a screen.   

 

Great social awareness makes your meetings more enjoyable, your conversations more valuable and your reputation stronger.

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH