Written by Rhea-Leigh O’Shea
Social awareness gives us the ability to understand and respond to the needs of others. If we apply the ideas on this page, we can improve our social skills and gain the respect of others. We will show how social awareness connects to emotional intelligence and social awareness. Thus, we must nurture social-emotional skills by developing them in children as they grow into adults.
We will break down the different theories of emotional intelligence and social awareness. We will focus on the benefits provided by strong social-emotional skills and how we can use them. We will explain how people with higher levels of social awareness and emotional intelligence are better equipped to face modern-day challenges (Harvard Health, 2022).
In this article, we will also show that our physical health relies on a strong social-emotional mind. Indeed, to have a happier and healthier body, we must use social-emotional skills for our well-being. Learning and using these skills will then help us thrive today.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Before we talk about the concept of social awareness, we must first discuss emotional intelligence. The emotional intelligence concept gained popularity through the work of Daniel Goleman. Through his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence.
This became a major discussion point as there seemed to be a correlation between this work and modern times. Goleman (2006) clarifies the central themes for us. He organises social intelligence into two broad categories: Social awareness, which is what we sense about other people. Social facility, which is what we then do with this awareness.
A report by Harvard Health (2022) helps explain this further. It defines social intelligence as the skills to “identify and regulate our own emotions, to recognize the emotions of other people and feel empathy toward them.” Effective social intelligence means we need “to communicate effectively and build healthy, productive relationships with others.” (Harvard Health, 2022)
Luckily for most of us, emotional intelligence is not restricted to a quality you are either born with or not. It is something that we can learn over time. In fact, it is a quality that we can all own, if we decide to put in the effort. Thus, we can all embrace the necessary skills to improve our emotional intelligence.
What Is Social Awareness?
Yugay (2018) defines social awareness as “being able to appropriately deal with societal and interpersonal problems and struggles.” In a practical sense, it is the “ability to know and feel the people around you and interact with them in the most efficient and proper manner.” (Yugay, 2018). So, someone who is “socially aware” understands different societal factors.
These factors include how people function in different societies and communities. Other factors involve a clear understanding of the norms and values that form these communities. So, people who are socially aware have a deeper understanding of why people or communities either struggle or succeed.
These skills are valuable as having a clear understanding of how and why this occurs can help provide solutions. Yugay (2018) agrees, as those with a greater level of social awareness “perceive and solve social and interpersonal problems much better. This can result in having great relationships, reputation, and professional success.” Thus, we must then encourage students’ skills from an early age and help develop them as they grow.
Why We Should Develop Social Awareness?
As discussed, it is not enough to only understand social awareness, we all must use it whenever we can, otherwise, it lacks effectiveness. We must understand that social awareness requires both ability and effort. For example, a person who is socially aware must also make a conscious effort to respond to different social situations.
Stanley Greenspan clarifies that an “individual should be honest about their personality traits and be able to assess when they are being socially inappropriate” (cited by Barowski, 2021). Thus, we sometimes need to adapt our behaviour to find solutions for our own scenarios.
We must respond for this to work, and this requires a higher level of understanding. We must use empathy to consider the views of different people around us. Then we need to apply this knowledge, carefully selecting the appropriate words. In these social scenarios, our actions and words are equally important. And when we use both together correctly, we display elevated levels of social awareness.
What Are the Skills Needed?
By using a model from a report by Harvard Health (2022), we can show how implementing skills can help us succeed. The Report outlines four key elements of emotional intelligence. The social-emotional skills include self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and conflict management skills. These skills are all connected to each other. They are invaluable if we wish to thrive in the teaching-learning environment.
1 – Self-Awareness
Strong self-awareness skills mean that a person understands how their words and actions help or hurt another person. Both educators and students must learn how their behaviour impacts them, and those around them. For productive learning experiences, we must engage in a range of skills. We should use skills, such as active listing or validating someone’s opinion. These types of skills display good self-awareness, which benefits the teaching-learning experience.
The classroom setting is a perfect environment to show that we are self-aware. Both educators and students can use a range of verbal and non-verbal skills to show their support to one another. For example, using your body language is an effective way to show support for ideas. We can do this without interrupting the person speaking. These non-verbal cues can take the form of nodding in support. Or listening attentively and paying attention to someone’s point of view.
2 – Self-Regulation
People must use self-regulation if they wish to succeed in all situations in life. We must practise remaining calm and collecting our thoughts before we speak or act. We risk harming our chances of success if our actions or words are either too reactive or impulsive.
Empathy plays a significant role in self-regulation. This is where we must consider how our actions and words impact others around us. To be emotionally intelligent, we must try to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. This then helps people to relate to one another as they can relate to how the other person is feeling.
3 – Social-Awareness
We have looked at some of the more theoretical parts of social awareness. It shows how we must balance social and interpersonal challenges. More practical examples include empathetic thinking, where someone considers other peoples’ views. Cooperation and communication skills mean we work together in a considerate way. This avoids upsetting people through poor use of words or inconsiderate actions.
4 – Conflict-Management
The main advantage of social intelligence is the ability to navigate interpersonal relationships. And how successfully we navigate this in social settings. The main issue of conflict management is how we limit the opposition to our ideas in the process. The previous examples of active listening and body language can help reduce conflict. We must maintain this style with our interactions to create a respectful environment.
Applying this to the teacher-student dynamic, we must always show respect if we wish to succeed. We must show students how to disagree with different options. But understand how there is also still value to the other person’s view. We can create a respectful, but also creative and engaging environment, which allows ideas to flow.
What are the Benefits of Strong Social-Emotional Skills?
There are countless benefits to having stronger emotional intelligence and social awareness. We will outline some key factors that we can all harness. This will help create a successful education setting. This also helps create a happy, healthy environment, which benefits both teachers and their students.
Coelho et al. (2017) highlight the positive results of emotional intelligence in the school setting. They note how students succeeded when they used social-emotional learning. Barowski (2021) finds similar positives in supporting emotionally intelligent conditions. According to him, this creates “a more cohesive, positive interaction between an individual and their surroundings.” Thus, we need to start developing these skills at an early age.
The ability to use and show appropriate levels of empathy is a key theme throughout this topic. For positive outcomes, we must harness our understanding of other peoples’ views. We must also develop our ability to care about their position if we are to gain positive outcomes. As a result, this creates a less combative and much nicer environment for everybody.
Further, being emotionally intelligent has many physical and mental benefits. Harvard Health notes that “healthy, productive relationships not only are key to our psychological well-being, they’re also vital to physical health.” (Harvard Health, 2022) So, we cannot underestimate the need to learn and develop these skills as we grow. They are important skills that we can all use to create a more productive and happier life.
Socially Aware People
As we have discovered, social intelligence is an understanding of both people and social situations. Socially aware people have a better understanding of social norms. They use skills, such as active listening and diplomacy. They succeed in social situations far better than those who lack this ability.
They understand how to apply social-emotional skills to gain positive outcomes. This helps us gain better outcomes in influencing people in non-combative ways. Through listening and understanding a person’s position, we reach a greater understanding. This creates a much nicer environment with conditions that benefit us mentally and physically.
By practising the social-emotional skills above, we can display better emotional intelligence. We can show an ability to connect with others and thrive in social situations. Through developing our social-emotional skills, we strengthen our ability to be socially aware. This increases our chances of succeeding in our present-day conditions. Thus, adopting these skills in childhood and developing them as we age is key to thriving and leading a happy and healthy life.
Barowski, J. (2021). Social Awareness: Examples, Skills, and Meaning. Retrieved 29 July 2022, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/social-awareness-definition-example-theories.html
Coelho, V., Sousa, V., Raimundo, R., & Figueira, A. (2017). The impact of a Portuguese middle school social–emotional learning program. Health Promotion International, 32(2), 292–three hundred. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48518385
Emotional Intelligence – Harvard Health. Harvard Health. (2022). Retrieved 28 July 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/emotional-intelligence#about-report
Goleman, D. (2006). What is Social Intelligence?. Greater Good. Retrieved 28 July 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_social_intelligence.
Yugay, I. (2018). The Social Awareness Definition You Need to Know to Be Socially Aware. Mindvalley Blog. Retrieved 28 July 2022, from https://blog.mindvalley.com/social-awareness-definition/#:~:text=What%20Is%20the%20Social%20Awareness%20Definition%3F%20Broadly%2C%20social,vibes%20of%20the%20society%20you%20are%20living%20in
Rhea has been a teacher since 2011. She has worked in Argentina, Italy, Sweden, Spain and throughout the United Kingdom. She has a Master’s in Global Political Science from Malmö University.