Awareness of the attitudes and behavior of others
What is it?
Social awareness is the ability to accurately perceive and understand the attitudes, emotions and behavior of others.
Why is it important?
Physicians work and interact with a variety of people on a daily basis, including patients, families, co-workers, and other professionals. That’s what makes work fun … but it’s also what makes work challenging. Relationships can be tricky. Each person has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and hot buttons. In order to be effective in our careers, we need to be students of human nature and keen observers of interpersonal dynamics.
The first thing we need to do is to open our eyes and become more observant of others. We must not only focus on the words people use but also their tone, facial expressions, and body language. We need to understand what excites them and discourages them. We need to know what is important to them. We must watch their behavior to get a better sense of who they are.
It’s easy to *think* we know what’s going on with another person but, in reality, we might be completely off base. A good way to get an accurate read on others is to simply ask them. “Kim, it seems like you’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Can you tell me what’s going on?” Or applied to a specific comment, an attending might say, “You seem to feel frustrated about working with this patient. Am I reading that right?” Asking clarifying questions help us know what another person might be going through and what they are trying to say to us in a respectful manner.
Finally, some people are oblivious to how they come across to others. They can be insensitive and unaware that they are not connecting with others. The non-verbal signals are there (closed posture, darting eyes, trying to get a word in to end the conversation), but the listener just doesn’t notice. If you don’t know how you come across to others, you need to be much more aware. “How does this person see me?” or “What were they thinking when I was giving my update?” and “How did I come across to the patient or team?” are very important pieces of information to have.