Have you ever heard of the sentence : " Read the room?" , well it embodies the concept of social awareness. It is a person's ability to consider the perspectives of other individuals, groups or communities and apply that understanding to interactions with them.
According to experts, it is a nuance skill that develops significantly throughout childhood. While we are introduced to new information and experiences that require us to understand the views and standpoints of others. Social and societal awareness helps us to understand how one fits into and contributes to the community and the world, as well as how we get what we need from the world.
This skill is developed through social and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.
As we know, it’s not the smartest people who are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual ability or your intelligence quotient (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to achieve success in life. Yes, your IQ can help you get into college, but it’s your EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions when facing your final exams. IQ and EQ exist in tandem and are most effective when they build off one another.
The term emotional intelligence was created by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer in their article "Emotional Intelligence" in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality in 1990. It was then popularized by Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist, in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes:
1. Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
2. Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
3. Social awareness – You have empathy. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
4. Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.
I grew up very sheltered from the outside world then I spent most of my teenage years alone, hence it took me many years to develop both my social and self awareness. I only learned to develop my emotional intelligence when I finally faced my traumas and started my healing process. It is only once I learned to be self aware, that i realize how out of tune I was with the world around me. I am still a little naive but life is a learning process, right? Anyhow, self awareness is fundamental to social awareness, have you read my article on self-awareness? (here) If yes, then let's dive more into the concept of social awareness.
You can learn more about social-emotional learning theory in Daniel Goleman's work, he built the idea of social and emotional intelligence (EQ) around a number of key components of social awareness :
Emotional self-awareness : Being emotionally aware is the skill behind understanding what one is feeling and appreciating how different moods can impact those around us.
Self-regulation : Self-regulation is the art of controlling the response to emotions - anticipating outcomes in an effort to avoid being emotionally reactive in personal and social situations.
Motivation : Motivation involves understanding how to use emotional factors to learn and achieve personal goals.
Empathy : Empathy is the skill of considering the emotions and circumstances of other individuals.
Respect : Respect is best defined as having a regard for another person or group's experiences, emotions, wishes or rights.
Listening Actively : Active listening is the skill of truly being seen to listen - paying attention, and taking time to understand what is being said.
Cooperation : Cooperation is an important part of finding a resolution or a way of working with other individuals or groups. It often involves compromise - but helps to achieve shared goals.
Why is social awareness so important?
I previously mentioned in my self-awareness article how your identity is the sum of who you think you are and who society thinks you are. Hence, your social awareness (or your lack of it) has a direct effect on your identity. Remember how I said that I use to struggle in my relationships with people? Well it was no joke. I recently came to an observation that I shared through a series of tweets :
"It has been a while since anyone asked me for "help". I used to be the crutches of so many people for so many years I forgot to care for myself. Implementing healthy boundaries and empowering people through my help instead of fueling codependencies really set me free in the last year. People pleasing would really frame you into a pattern were you feel like it is your only worth. " You are my friend because I am helping you" " I am liked because I am helping..etc.." You cultivate that savior role and end up losing yourself through it. Then to cope with the loneliness it instigates, you develop a hero complex.
God really saved me from myself and others. Helping people is an honorable thing, but showing them how they can help their own-selves is definitely the mood. "
I enjoy helping people, this is how I fuel my self-worth. Maybe because I am the middle child ? Maybe because I love to make people happy, maybe it came from a defense mechanisms that I have developed from my childhood. I do not know but even as I am thinking of it, I am realizing that simply by creating this platform, I seek to help people. I like to think of myself as a kind of healer, I heal people with love. I show love by helping. Thus, some would even say I am a people pleaser and they would not be wrong, only that I do not do it naively, I do it because I was alone most of my life and I relied on myself solely for many things, so if I can help anyone not to feel alone and helpless I would. Even if it meant hurting myself in the process. And Lord I have been hurt (lol). Most do not like people like me, they believe that we do it for ulterior motives, so they do their best to challenge our integrity and often it results in hurt. Some would take advantage of the situation and use you. That is where discernment is key through self and social awareness.
During my research on the subject, I came across the Positive Action Philosophy , it is aimed at students but I believe that we could all benefit from it. It is an intuitive philosophy that allows ones to feel good about themselves through positive actions,
"the Thoughts - Action - Feeling Circle : Our thoughts lead to actions and those actions lead to feelings about ourselves which in turn lead to more thoughts" . Based on their process I will make a list that anyone could use to implement this philosophy into their lives :
Step 1. Self - Concept : Once again, if you have not read my previous article, I strongly recommend to read it and use the knowledge for this part. Identify yourself and understand your self-concept (the way that you think and feel about yourself).
Step 2. Positive action for your Mind & Body : Becoming aware of your responsibility for the care of your body. Positive people take good care of their minds and bodies. Be more mindful and intentional of your nutrition, your hygiene, avoid harmful substances, exercice, sleep, avoid illness. In terms of intellectual health, seek more knowledge, develop your problem-solving skills, your creative thinking, your memory and your curiosity.
Step 3. Managing yourself responsibly: Learning how to manage your resources such as time, energy, possessions, money, talents, thoughts, actions and feelings is an important positive action that improves your self-concept. It allows you to make a distinction between yourself as a person and your attributes/resources (you control them, they do not control you)
Step 4. Treating others the way you like to be treated : This phase allows you to shift from introspection to social interactions. It allows you to practice respect, empathy, friendliness, kindness, cooperation and positiveness while dealing with others.
Step 5. Telling yourself the truth: self-honesty means dealing with realities and seeing yourself as you really are. If you read my previous article *wink* *wink* you would know that this step is about self-reflection and self-acceptance. knowing yourself and telling yourself the truth. Not blaming others, admitting your mistakes, not making excuses and keeping your commitment to yourself.
Step 6. Improving yourself continually: Self-improvement is a natural follow-up to self-honesty, because individuals who take a realistic look at themselves are better able to determine their personal goals. Self-improvement means developing and integrating the physical, intellectual and social/emotional domains to grow toward one's personal ideal. Through setting short and long term goals, and making goal setting work by believing in your potential, having courage to try and turn problems into opportunities, and to work steadily toward improvement.
In order for you to engage your EQ, you must be able use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behavior. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately. When you become overly stressed, your ability to both think clearly and accurately assess emotions—your own and other people’s—becomes compromised. Managing stress is just the first step to building emotional intelligence.
The science of attachment indicates that your current emotional experience is likely a reflection of your early life experience. Your ability to manage core feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy often depends on the quality and consistency of your early life emotional experiences. If your primary caretaker as an infant understood and valued your emotions, it’s likely your emotions have become valuable assets in adult life. But, if your emotional experiences as an infant were confusing, threatening or painful, it’s likely you’ve tried to distance yourself from your emotions.
To build social awareness, you need to recognize the importance of mindfulness in the social process. After all, you can’t pick up on subtle nonverbal cues when you’re in your own head, thinking about other things, or simply zoning out on your phone. Social awareness requires your presence in the moment. While many of us pride ourselves on an ability to multitask, this means that you’ll miss the subtle emotional shifts taking place in other people that help you fully understand them. Social awareness enables you to recognize and interpret the mainly nonverbal cues others are constantly using to communicate with you.
These cues let you know how others are really feeling, how their emotional state is changing from moment to moment, and what’s truly important to them. Working well with others is a process that begins with emotional awareness and your ability to recognize and understand what other people are experiencing. Once emotional awareness is in play, you can effectively develop additional social/emotional skills that will make your relationships more effective, fruitful, and fulfilling.