Social awareness is the dimension of EQ used to ‘read the room’, but if your social awareness isn’t very developed, doing that can be easier said than done. Here are some actionable tips you can deploy in any social situation to make a good impression and get a handle on any interaction.
Level Out Your Own Emotions First
Observing others is going to be difficult if you’re already emotionally elevated, and this applies to positive emotions, not just negative ones! If you’re coming in hot to a situation with a more mellow group emotional level, you might rub people the wrong way (and you’re very likely to miss the nuances of the interactions around you!).
First, focus on taking your own emotional temperature and trying to get to a more neutral place. Focus on open but non-confrontational body language and easy but non-intense eye contact. Check out the posture of the people around you as well; some people might be forcing an engaged tone while retreating physically and subconsciously. Keep an eye on that and stay neutral!
Pay Attention to Everyone in the Room
To get a full picture of what’s going on around you, make sure to pay attention to everyone in the room, not just the loud people or the leaders.
Everyone has something valuable to contribute to an interaction, and if you’re the person to notice that and highlight it, the people around you will notice (and appreciate it)!
For example, if one person is leading the conversation in a loud and negative way, paying attention to others can turn things around. If you’re noticing a quieter group member protesting the negativity and withdrawing, make sure to support them and encourage them to speak up with eye contact and that positive, open body language.
You don’t want to put them on the spot, but you can support them by holding space for them should they speak up! It’s important to take note of how others are reacting to the ‘leader’ of a conversation. There’s a lot of important information to be gained just from observation.
Think About What You Shouldn’t Do Ahead of Time
Knowing how you don’t want an interaction to go can be as important as having a clear objective! Don’t spend too much time dwelling on your past mistakes, but by briefly considering a situation where you didn’t handle things well, you can take action to correct those missteps and have positive interactions now.
When you’re having a negative interaction with someone, make it productive by noting what exactly they’re doing that you and others dislike, and think about how you can avoid similar behavior in the future.
Take Time to Listen
You might be trying to keep all of these tips straight, but it’s very important for you to be paying attention to the people around you while you do so! If you aren’t making an effort to connect with everyone in the conversation and really engage with what they’re communicating to you, you will come across as stiff and uninterested.
The point of positive interaction and reading the room is to connect more deeply with the people around you, so make sure you’re doing that and not just following this checklist! It’s a lot to try and keep track of at once, but it’ll get easier to manage with time and, most importantly, practice.
Moving Forward With More Social Awareness
Social awareness is a crucial skill. Luckily, it’s one that can be improved with practice so don’t worry if you’re not where you’d like to be just yet! Remember to level out your own emotions, pay attention to everyone’s body language and thoughts, and remember what you don’t want to do and you will already be on your way to improving your social awareness!
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