Social awareness is defined as the ability to know and feel the people around you and the ability to interact with them in the most efficient and proper manner. Having good social awareness means you are equipped to say the right things at the right times and are much better at dealing with interpersonal exchanges and any problems. This, in turn results in the building of better relationships, reputation and professional success.
Social awareness often goes hand in hand with empathy as it indicates an ability to understand what others both are saying and feeling and how to react appropriately to make others feel understood and to a alleviate their worries and problems. Although some are naturally better at this than others there are some practical steps that can be taken to improve your social awareness skills. Good social awareness is important for leaders as it is key that they can connect to and communicate efficiently with a diverse team so that all team leaders feel valued and understood.
Tips for improving social awareness:
- Learn to identify which types of situations make you uncomfortable, and
then learn to recognise these to understand your behavior and change it next time. Perhaps you find exchanges with certain groups of people difficult- reflect on why this might be and try to combat the elements that deter you.
- Learn to become aware of behaviours in other people that may cause you to respond negatively. As you are unlikely to be able to change the other person, you must be able to modify your own behaviour to turn the situation into a positive experience.
- Take ownership for your behaviour and be willing to apologize for lapses or errors in judgment or insensitive actions.
- Ask others for their honest feedback about the way you interact with them. Accept the negative feedback along with the positive (without getting defensive) and make changes accordingly.
- Be aware of your body language. Non-verbal communication is more important than what you have to say. Positive body language will benefit your interactions with other people.
- Accept that improving your social skills is not an overnight process. Trying to improve or change too many things at once will be counterproductive as you will feel so uncomfortable that you may suffer an emotional hijacking.
- Maximise your positive personality traits and use them to your advantage when interacting with others.
Another way to improve your social awareness and be more tuned in to other peoples thoughts and emotions is through active listening. Good listening skills are integral for better social awareness. To improve your listening skills you can try to adopt more active listening in your daily life. This means that during conversations you should focus all your attention on what the other person is saying to absorb the information, instead of just waiting for your turn to speak. This not only shows an active interest in the conversation, but also makes communication clearer and shows people that their contributions are valued.
A good way to try and be a more active listener is to reflect on conversations you have in daily life and ask yourself these questions:
- Did I listen actively to that person and pay them attention throughout?
- Did I react appropriately with my non-verbal communication?
- Did I ask them the right questions and provide good feedback so they knew i was listening actively?
- Did I interrupt throughout to give my judgement of the situation?
- Was my response suited to the tone of the conversation and empathetic to their feelings throughout?
In active listening it is important to withhold judgement and interruption as much as possible so the person can be allowed to speak and communicate everything they want to.
The skills explored earlier in emotional intelligence contribute to better relationship management. Relationship management is about interpersonal skills and your ability to motivate and get the best out of others. It is also about how to best inspire others and help them best resolve their issues and challenges. Good relationship management skills are integral for patient group leaders as they will often act as the figurehead of the organisation and are therefore responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with a range of different people from their own trustees and community, to pharmaceutical representatives and academics. The tone of every relationship is different and leaders must be highly aware of this and attuned to the adaptions the must make when communicating with different groups of people.
Some methods to develop great relationship management are:
- Be curious and interested in other people’s lives and work. This means asking questions and having time for conversations that will build bonds between you and your team members or other individuals. Follow up with the progress of others work and stay in touch with your team regularly. If you are meeting with someone in a professional context be well prepared and do your research.
- Say thank you to those who have achieved and encourage those who may need it, this will help make people feel valued and help them to grow their confidence.
- Do not be distracted when you have conversations or meetings with others. This could mean working on your body language or simply putting your phone away to show someone they have your undivided attention.
- Remember to value your connections to others, they are valuable as nothing can ever be achieved alone. Follow up after meetings and check in on people, even those outside of your team.
- Be aware of the more negative sides of relationships. Not all relationships are positive and sometimes difficulties arise between different teams and individuals. These disagreements and challenges need to be managed effectively in order to make sure the team is relaxed, and everyone can carry on as normal. It can be useful to plan out challenging conversations beforehand to make sure you are ready and can remain calm and professional. This template offers a useful example of how you can plan a difficult conversation.
This diagram sums up the relationship between being self aware and socially aware. To be competently self aware and socially aware we must put effort into self managing our own emotions and managing our relationships with others. If we do more to work on these skills then it becomes more visible that we are self aware and socially aware.
Self- sufficiency is defined as being able to provide everything you need for yourself and having confidence to learn and develop independently of others. In leadership there are two importance aspects of self-sufficiency to be developed: Developing self-reliance as an individual and developing a self-sufficient team. Having a self-sufficient team is not only important for making sure everyone can get along with their own workload but also in making sure individuals are empowered to solve challenges they face independently.
Creating a self-sufficient team:
- Don’t just give people the answers. When individuals come to you for help, think about the way you offer it- instead of offering them the solution straight away, talk through it with them and ask open questions to allow them to come to the solution. Ask them what solutions they have already thought of and look to validate and shape their solution together, this will foster confidence in their own problem-solving skills rather than just telling them what approach to take.
- Motivate your team. A team that is motivated by a positive leader are far more likely to feel confident and assured in their own abilities and therefore ready to take on tasks by themselves. It is key to build relationships with team members to understand what different individuals are motivated by.
- Emphasise goals over tactics. Explaining the end point of what you want to achieve as a team will allow different individuals freedom to achieve within their own individual working styles and tactics. This will allow individuals to rely on their own intuition to complete tasks rather than following a rigid method that has been enforced, remember there is never just one way to do something.
- Make sure information is easy to access where possible. No team can be expected to be self sufficient if they are not given the tools needed to do so. Information should be available and easy for them to find rather than just existing in the mind of one person. This involves setting up inclusive databases for everyone to access and kept updated with any changes or important information.
- Forgive mistakes. It is important to remember that mistakes happen in any job and if individuals don’t feel comfortable making mistakes, they’ll be tempted to shift responsibility to the leader by asking for them to make their decisions. Leaders also make mistakes and that’s okay too as self sufficiency is enhanced by making mistakes and creating solutions which bring confidence and experience.
This diagram explains the different between open and closed questions. Open questions are more ambiguous and so encourage the individual to explore more different answers whereas closed questions are more limiting.