By Barb Ward
The world and your environment are ever-changing. As a result, you have to continually adapt and acquire new skills to successfully navigate these changes. Building your social skills is one of the most important ways you can enhance your ability to connect on a deeper level with others.
In order to be truly socially aware, you must be able to empathize with people. This means feeling what they are feeling. Empathy fuels connection. Feeling with someone often validates the authenticity of the connection, provides perspective, and signifies that you are not alone.
Being socially aware enables you to view people, experiences, and behaviors through a different lens. It helps you interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures with a new perspective, and helps you respond to situations with a more thoughtful, appropriate, and intentional reaction.
Intuition, which was discussed in our last blog, is definitely an important component that helps steer you in the right direction, however, there is so much more to building social awareness that can help you be successful in your personal and professional life. Following are four areas you can focus on to improve your social awareness skills:
People who have powerful presence seem to have an innate ability to connect with others, command respect and inspire action. When you are present in a situation or conversation, you slow down and consciously create space to ensure you can just “be” in the moment. In addition to improved relationships, when you slow down, your mind relaxes, you sleep better, and you connect on a deeper level with those around you.
People with great presence often have the following traits, they:
- Communicate effectively.
- Know/learn how to assess a situation and what to say to get the best effect from teams or groups.
- Seek constructive criticism.
- Are approachable, open, flexible, and confident.
- Use humor to effectively create lightness and energy.
- Consider additional perspectives and experiment with new possibilities.
These are skills you can work on to increase your presence as well.
Really listening requires you to engage at a deeper level so you are tuned in not only to what is being said, but also to what is not being said. It requires interpreting tone, speed of delivery, body language and facial expressions. Listening deeply requires you to focus your attention, observe, and listen fully. You aren’t listening deeply if you are trying to answer email and listen to a conversation at the same time. Listening deeply allows you to make stronger connections with others because you engage with others on a different level, a level that says you care about what they are saying. You can reinforce your listening skills by:
- Encouraging, accepting, exploring, and reinforcing the other person’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc.
- Building on the other person’s ideas and suggestions
- Repeating the person’s communication to ensure understanding
Feeling empathy and compassion.
Seeing someone struggle through a condition or situation that you’ve previously been in can foster genuine empathy. But even when you don’t have a shared experience, you can put yourself in another person’s shoes by imagining yourself in the same position and intentionally trying to feel what the other person is going through. Compassion takes that feeling of empathy to the next level. When you are confronted with another person’s suffering, you empathize with them, and you are moved to provide comfort or do something to help alleviate their pain or suffering.
Empathy is essential in both your personal and professional life because empathy improves communication. What’s more, connecting through empathy and compassion allows you to build relationships and interact with others in a way that shows that you value and appreciate them.
Asking powerful questions.
Powerful questions can remove the burden of “knowing everything” from you. Asking questions rather than providing answers, allows the other person to dig deep to discover their own answers. This enables you to rely on the experience and knowledge of people around you to inform and enlighten you, and to reveal new information, ideas, or perspectives that you otherwise would not have considered. When you enter into a conversation with an open mind instead of assuming you have all the answers, you challenge and empower others to bring their own insights and brilliance forward, resulting in self-reliance and accountability. It also builds trust and a stronger relationship between the two of you because you have demonstrated that you value their input and ideas.
By understanding the needs, values, and interests of those around you, you are able to motivate and encourage others, and manage conflict in both your personal and professional lives. It takes effort to build your skills in these areas, and it is not always easy to step into another’s shoes, but the results are worth it. While there are many additional ways to increase your social skills, what if you committed to mastering just one of the skills mentioned above. How would your professional life change? How would your personal life change? What if you intentionally worked on all of the above skills? The truth is, when you are committed to improving yourself, the possibilities are endless!