I was heavy, taller then everyone by 6th grade, misguided by a huge perm, not athletic, or of high aptitude. I figured out that I would get attention and rewards if I made people smile and laugh. When nobody picked me for their kickball team or math quiz bowl, I shrugged it off and practiced humor. When there wasn’t a date to Prom, I wrote a funny column for the school newspaper. And when I entered the 4-H fashion review contest and the written comment said “should try to find a style more flattering to her figure,” I thanked the judge and made her laugh.
I have worked with several people who tell me that they struggle the most with Social Awareness (one of the four EI skills). Social Awareness per Daniel Goleman includes empathy and organizational awareness; the ability to understand other’s feelings and the ability to understand how the organization works politically.
For the individuals who seek me out to talk about Social Awareness, I want to know more about where they got their rewards K-12. We tend to behave as we have been rewarded. Think about your own unique situation. What were you rewarded for in school? Did you get the most attention for your looks, academic ability, or athletic success? Or were your primary rewards the result of more team work and behind the scenes support roles? Everyone’s situation is unique, but we can all learn a lot about our levels of empathy and how we understand an organization’s dynamics by what we had to practice the most growing up.
Clearly all my humor development was a mask for sadness, but my situation forced me to pay attention to others and listen very young. Practice makes Permanent. If you or your employees/team members struggle to excel in Social Awareness, it’s not too late. Learn everything you can and start practicing now. Social Awareness is a measurable piece of your organization’s success!