Have you ever known someone who had the ability to enter a room, immediately identify and connect with you? Someone, who when they spoke with you, made you make you feel like you’re the only one there?
One of my business partners is like that. Regardless of someone’s background, emotional state, political opinion, or if they’ve just met, he can connect with them in about 2 seconds in a way that let’s them know that:
- They have his full attention
- He understands or “gets” who they are
- He’s truly interested in them and wants to know more
- He has their best interests in mind
I bet you know someone that can connect with others like that too. There’s something about their ability to connect that makes us want to be more like them. But what is it?
In a word, it’s their social-awareness. Empathy is the core element of social-awareness, which in turn is the foundational skill of your ability to relate with others. Empathy and it’s embodiment in social-awareness is also the single most important factor for visionary leadership. After all, how do you prime positive emotions in others and inspire them if you don’t even know where they’re coming from or how they feel? As Napoleon once said “a leader is a dealer in hope”.
What it is
Social Awareness is the ability to empathize and be attuned to others and their values, priorities and concerns. And empathy is the key to having a high level of social awareness. It’s characterized by being able to sense accurately and then say the right words and/or do the right thing at the right time. What do we call those who have social-awareness deficit disorder (SAAD)? We often call them “clueless”.
What they have
Leaders with a high level of social-awareness have the ability to pick up on the emotions of others and really understand what’s going on with them; even when their thinking and feelings are different. These leaders consistently demonstrate the following competencies:
- Empathy that is encompassing- being “tuned-in” to other people’s emotions, state, and perspective regardless of background, culture and differences.
- Organizational awareness- politically astute and able to detect politics, key power relationship , important social networks and values as well as rules….particularly those that are un-written but very, very real.
- Service- foster the emotional climate and make key connections critical to satisfaction and relational health. They know how to make themselves available at the right place, right time and with the right people
What they do
Leaders high in social-awareness consistently (not perfectly) stay focused, informed, in-tune and avoid getting hi-jacked by their own emotions. They’re also masters at, and consistently demonstrate, two critical skills:
Because socially aware leaders make common practice out of these two common-sense skills, they’re able to recognize what they need to stop doing, attend to others instead of their self-talk, and not be focused on what they are going to say or do next.
Just because its’ simple doesn’t mean its easy. In fact, social awareness is hard work….at first. The good news is that just like the other 3 domains of social and emotional intelligence, the more you practice listening and observing the better you become at “reading” people. Once you start and are intentionally engaged with it, social-awareness becomes more about how you’re being vs what your doing.
How would people rate your level of social awareness? Are there signs that you are a good reader of the people with whom you live and lead? Or, perhaps there are clues that you……well, may be a bit clueless as times?
At the beginning of this post I said empathy was the cornerstone of social-awareness and the foundation of your ability to relate with others. Since that’s the case, you may want to brush-up on your understanding of empathy, what it can do for you and how to leverage it in your leadership.
Empathy is really the secret formula for connecting with others….resonance, if you would. And that’s what I am going to discuss next.