Last week I wrote about two important aspects of emotional intelligence in business settings: self awareness and self control. But no matter how aware you are and how effectively you can regulate your own speech and behavior, professional success also hinges on how you get along with others.
And the first step toward getting along with others is actually being able to figure out what they’re doing – and why.
This is not an easy task. Sometimes we can others by what they say. More often, we also need to pick up on their body language (in the short-term) and their actual choices and actions (in the long term) – as well as use our intuition to sense the more subtle feelings that other people may be having, but expressing. Moreover, we need to be able to do this with all sorts of people – from customers to employees, and from other business people to local politicians.
It’s a lot of information to take in.
As such, becoming more socially aware – or fine-tuning one’s interpersonal radar – can be hard. All sorts of factors bear on our ability to understand what other humans are doing — from the way our parents raised us to our own fear of facing facts, from sheer unfamiliarity with how certain people (or certain kinds of people)operate to being just shy enough to avoid social encounters, which can leave you “out of the loop.”
One way to develop your radar is simply to get out and about more often. Another way is to start observing people closely – while forcing yourself to watch and wait before either jumping to conclusions or jumping into a conversation to assert your opinion or needs. Another is to listen closely to what people say about other people — this can actually help you learn what’s socially acceptable and what is not.
And still another way is to study people who aren’t socially aware – who, we might say, “haven’t a clue,” “never listen,” or otherwise “turn people off.” What is it they do that isn’t effective? And how often do you do the same thing?