Let’s talk about you….

Let’s talk about you….

Social awareness is seeing and understanding how others feel and think in a particular situation. You have to be present and pay attention so they can show you and tell you.

It isn’t easy- people are complicated. Starting with yourself, you need to do at least four things.

  1. You have to intentionally stop your internal dialog that probably goes something like this…It’s all about me. Who cares about you?….Okay let’s talk about you….What do you think about me? Stop paying attention to your own thoughts and feelings about whatever is on your mind such as figuring out your weekend plans.
  2. You have to wade though your thoughts about them like “They went on a hike that sounded like fun last weekend. I am jealous.”
  3. Then you keep going all the way past your thoughts about their thoughts about you “Why didn’t they ask me to go hiking? I thought we were friends.  Don’t they know I like hiking too?”
  4. Finally you can engage them in a conversation, for example “What are you doing this weekend?”

So many ways to get distracted or lost along the way. 

To avoid hijacking yourself once the conversation/meeting starts, here are some tips to stay present and pay attention:

  • Skip multi-tasking. Focus and don’t give your attention to anything else. Put your phone down. Don’t look at email. Even taking notes can be a distraction.
  • Take time to observe the person you speaking with. Make eye contact. Their body language and facial expressions can tell you a lot about their energy and emotions.
  • Talk less. Smile more*  Ask questions to prompt them for more information on the topic. Don’t jump right in. Let them finish, they may just be taking a breath or gathering their thoughts before continuing.
  • Listen well. Don’t waste your time and attention anticipating what they are going to say, or planning what you are going to say while they’re speaking. 
  • Before you share your thoughts on the topic too, acknowledge what they shared to make sure you got it. Don’t assume you know what they meant, check in with them. How embarrassing would it be to debate the point if you actually agreed?  Or how much trouble it would cause to leave the meeting thinking you agree about next steps when you don’t?

From personal experience, I know how much paying attention will improve communication, but I am not going to say I am great at all of those all of the time.  I could tell you stories about what has now become known as “Dadlibs” at our house. Several of us (me, Me, ME, and one or two of the kids) are prone to jump in and fill in the blanks in wrong but sometimes ridiculously funny ways when my husband takes a breath.

So my advice is don’t expect to do all of those skills well right away.  Be mindful of all of them but choose only one or two to start with.  Choose the ones that will make the biggest difference, and don’t be surprised if you need to switch tactics with different people or settings.

*Thank you Lin Manuel Miranda! Aaron Burr’s line from Hamilton is a favorite. I have been listening to the soundtrack a lot lately.  It gets my energy going!