Emotional Intelligence is no longer a fringe topic. Our awareness and understanding of this critical skillset is growing rapidly, as is our understanding of the link between EI, happiness and success. As a starting point, let’s get familiar with what it is!
Here’s the accepted definition of EI:
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).
Emotional Intelligence has been broken down into four distinct skillsets:
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Management
Now let’s look at the third (of four) main skillset of emotional intelligence: Social Awareness.
Social awareness is your ability to pick up on what others are thinking and feeling.
All of us continually broadcast countless clues as to what is going on in our inner world. We do this without knowing it, through our behaviour, body language, facial expression, choice of words and our ‘energy’, so to speak.
This is why a great film actor can move us deeply. They are so connected to the inner life of the character that, without saying a word, they can convey their emotional journey in a way that we can understand and empathize with.
How good are you at ‘reading a room’? Do you show up at a work function at immediately pick up on undercurrents with your colleagues? Are you aware of who is having a bad day or who is feeling great?
How well do you get along with different personality types? Are you able to adapt and build relationships with colleagues or community members you wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards?
Social awareness is at work in all of these instances.
Here are some strategies you can use to buff up your Social Awareness skills:
Observe physical cues.
Start with people you know well. Most likely, it’s obvious to you when your spouse, friend or long-time colleague is in a good or bad mood. Because you know them well, you are familiar with their palette of emotional states.
For the next while, instead of that being background information, challenge yourself to catalogue the cues they are sending. What does ‘happy’ or ‘frustrated’ or ‘excited’ or ‘depressed’ look like on them? What facial expressions, body language or tone of voice go along with each state?
The physical expression of our various emotions is remarkably similar across all demographics and cultures. Once you’ve become familiar with the language of these states in your inner circle, observe anyone and everyone. You’ll see that you’re able to use the physical cues to become aware of their emotional state.
Put down your smart phone!
When you are with someone, make a habit of removing distractions. Instead, be fully present. When you notice the impulse to just ‘check-in’ with someone, resist it. Studies have proven that once a brain is distracted, it takes up to twenty minutes to get focused again! Which, based on our device-addicted culture, basically means that we are rarely present with the person we’re with.
Social awareness is about the other person, not ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be continually distracted in a social setting, our emotional intelligence is at rock-bottom. Put the device down and pay attention!
Develop your ability to listen deeply.
This is tough! Humans are wired to think a lot faster than we can speak. What that means is that while your conversation partner is speaking it’ll take real effort for you to be fully listening instead of thinking about a) what you’re going to say next or b) picking up the dry cleaning or some other task.
Here is one of my all-time favourite quotes:
Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.
- David Augsberger, Mennonite Minister and Author
To improve your listening, give yourself tasks: listen for emotion; listen to fully understand; listen for what they are saying and also what is being left unsaid.
Developing your social awareness muscles is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your quality of life and relationships. Enjoy!
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.