Put your Social Awareness Antenna to Work

You walk into a conference room for a 10AM meeting. Five minutes into the meeting, you notice the following:

  • Two angst-ridden people from the same department tapping feverishly on their phones
  • One person with his laptop open intensely pounding out an email
  • The quiet person on your team sitting back from the table at the far end
  • The not-so-quiet person on your team already energized and offering opinions
  • The new dad having a hard time keeping his eyes open
  • The nay-sayer sitting forward with a furrowed brow

Pretty typical meeting, you might think. The question, however, is how do you get the most from that meeting?

This is where Social Awareness comes in. As an essential tool in your Emotional Intelligence toolkit, exercising Social Awareness helps you identify the interpersonal nuances in the room. From there, you can shift your approach to respond to the unique dynamic before you.

Essentially, Social Awareness means having your antenna up and noticing what’s going on “socially.” It means paying attention to non-verbals, energy and tone. As one research study found, only seven percent of our communication is the words we say; the remainder is conveyed through facial cues and voice (the “7-38-55 Rule”).

You can also use your Social Awareness antenna to detect and sort through the room dynamic. Ask yourself the following questions (not out loud, of course):

  • Who’s here and who’s sitting where? Where are the alliances and outliers?
  • What’s the general tone or “mood” of the room? Do people look bored, stressed, intimidated, energized? Are people slouching back in their seats or sitting up attentively? Any light-hearted joking going on?
  • What is the balance of individual “speechifying” to healthy, inclusive discussions?
  • What is the degree of active listening versus hogging the “talking stick?”
  • Who’s not contributing?
  • How present are people? Are they multi-tasking?
  • What are the feelings behind the words?

Utilizing Social Awareness is a way to key into non-verbal clues. Stepping back intentionally to take the pulse of the room is a way to maximize contribution by participants and helps them feel valued.

Then, the art of leadership is in your hands. Adjusting your approach to meet the needs of each situation will increase your influence and effectiveness as a leader.

Antenna’s up!

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