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Paying attention to others

Hopefully, you are becoming more Self Aware and Self Managed.  The next step in your Emotional Intelligence journey is to improve your Social Awareness. Basically, it’s about paying attention to others and responding proactively and positively.

One of my favorite easy examples of Social Awareness happens when you are leading a meeting.  You know that you are becoming more socially aware when you look around the room, and if everyone has a “glazed over” look in their eyes or they have all started staring at their phones or computers, then it’s time to take a break!  It seems simple but it can make a huge impact in improving the ability to work together and finish the meeting in a positive and productive way.

Social Awareness is also very related to the concept of Empathy. When you are aware of others and their emotions, considerate of them, show compassion to them and make adjustments to your words and behavior accordingly, you are demonstrating Social Awareness.  Here are a few other examples of coalition or partnership situations that require a high amount of Social Awareness in order to navigate well:

  • The program or project that you collaborated on with many different partners just lost its funding.
  • You have changed the structure of the coalition to be more responsive to the current climate; however, a few members were personally and passionately invested in the previous structure.
  • You have diverse members on your team who bring very different backgrounds and perspectives to the current problem you are trying to solve collectively.
  • One person is consistently dominating the conversation during a coalition meeting and keeps others from having a voice.
  • Your meetings used to have 30 active participants but now only about 15 attend regularly.
  • One of the members of your team lost a loved one – perhaps a child, a spouse, a parent or a dear friend.

The list could keep going.  I bet you can think of several other personal examples that happened last week!  So, how can you improve your Social Awareness?  Here are a five ideas:

  1. Pay attention.  I know this seems obvious, but it’s really easy to be distracted by a thousand different things…our phones, computers, lunch ideas, plans for the weekend, whether we closed the garage door, why our daughter still isn’t sleeping…I encourage you to be present and aware in your meetings with others.  Pay attention to the words people are saying – and not saying. Watch their body language and facial expressions.
  2. Actively listen.  This is related to paying attention, but it goes a step further.  Really listen to what people are saying during a meeting.  Try to understand their perspective and recognize how it might impact others in the room.
  3. Ask questions.  When you are paying attention and actively listening, you are able to ask really good questions to better understand what is happening in your coalition or team.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do is ask these questions in a one-on-one setting to gain more clarity and then organize those answers/common themes from several individuals that can influence how you approach your next meeting or decision.
  4. Be humble.  Realize that you have a lot to learn from those around you.  Don’t try to always push your own agenda or think that your priority is everyone else’s priority.  See the value in others and their opinions and perspectives.
  5. Show compassion. When you pay attention and really get to know what is happening with individuals and groups of people, you are able to show kindness and compassion to them.  If your team spent the past several months writing a grant that didn’t get funded, take time to acknowledge the disappointment.  If someone has experienced a loss or disappointment, acknowledge that to them individually and provide leadership in helping the group support that person (send a card, flowers, meal, visit, etc.).  Show that you care.

Just like list of potential situations, the list of ways to show Social Awareness could continue as well.  It’s also not something that we figure out once and never have to revisit. We can continually learn how to grow and improve in Social Awareness.  When we do, our relationships will improve and we will be better working together with others.

So what about you?  How have you experienced Social Awareness?  How are you learning how to be more Socially Aware?

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