Practicing Social Awareness

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Communication Basics for Laboratory Leaders. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Practicing Social Awareness

What are some ways in which you can practice social awareness? How can you become more aware of those around you?
Practicing empathy is a good way to improve your social awareness. When you are with your coworkers, whether it be working at the bench, in a meeting, or in the breakroom, think about how they are presenting themselves. Are they happy? Do they seem upset or angry? Maybe they are being more quiet than usual? By practicing empathy, you are recognizing that someone may not be showing up the way they mean to and you are choosing to look beyond their behavior to the possible underlying emotions. Someone may appear angry when they are actually feeling shame, grief, or disappointment.
Start a conversation with an individual and practice active listening. Active listening is listening with the intent to understand, not just hear and respond. Practicing active listening is also a lesson in self-awareness. When someone is talking to you do you give them your full attention? Do you face your computer, or do you make eye-contact?
To practice active listening, you should:
  • give your full attention (turn from your computer, put away your phone)
  • nod for affirmation and make eye-contact
  • invest your time (if you don't have time at the moment say, "I want to be able to give you my full attention so let's make time together", or if you run out of time say, "This conversation is important so let's find additional time")
  • pay attention to non-verbal communication cues, not just words
  • listen with the intent to understand, not to give a response (it is okay to just listen and not have a response, practicing empathy can simply be "I understand you and I see where you are coming from")
Social awareness is also about recognizing the perspectives and needs of others. Social awareness is not "it's my way or the highway," it is about adapting to your environment, being flexible, and recognizing that other people see things differently. You can practice social awareness by having an open mindset and choosing to listen and understand before responding. This does not mean you have to agree with the perspectives of others, just to understand that they exist.