Applied EQ #33:  What the EQ Experts Say About Social Awareness

Applied EQ #33: What the EQ Experts Say About Social Awareness

In the last post, we introduced the Emotional Intelligence domain of Social Awareness.  Social Awareness is one of the five domains of emotional intelligence that are of interest to project managers.  This post will explore what the EQ experts say about social awareness.

Mayer and Salovey were the first EQ researchers to address the concept of Social Awareness in their 1990 paper titled Emotional Intelligence.  That paper contained one of the first Emotional Intelligence Frameworks with a section called Appraisal and Expression of emotions in self and in others (see below).  Though they did not call it Social Awareness, that is essentially what Mayer and Salovey described in the Appraisal and Expression of Emotions in others.


Mayer and Salovey introduced two sub-components of that domain of Appraisal and Expression of Emotion in others:  Non-verbal Perception and Empathy.  Non-verbal perception is the ability to recognize the unspoken emotions of others.  Non-verbal cues include facial expressions and body language.

The second sub component, empathy, is the ability to comprehend another’s feelings and re-experience those feelings.  Mayer and Salovey were the first to link empathy back to self-awareness.  That is, you cannot feel what others feel without first being aware of what you feel.

As previously discussed, Daniel Goleman research came after and built on the work of Mayer and Salovey.  Goleman first called this domain Social Competence and later named it Social Awareness in his most recent framework (see previous post).  That framework included the three Social Awareness competencies of Empathy, Service Orientation, and Organizational Awareness.  Goleman’s use of Empathy is consistent with Salovey and Mayer.  However, Service Orientation and Organizational Awareness were new with the Goleman framework.

Goleman defines Service Orientation as the ability to identify a customer’s often unstated need and match that to products and services.  While I agree with the importance of Service Orientation as defined, I don’t see any linkage to emotions.  Obviously it is important for project managers to understand customer’s needs.  I just don’t see the emotional component and prefer to address the topic outside the domain of emotional intelligence.  It dilutes the importance of emotional intelligence and the application to project management.

Goleman defines Organizational Awareness as the ability to interpret the emotions and politics of groups.  Think of Organizational Awareness as the expansion of Awareness from individuals to groups of people.  It is about the ability to accurately understand situations without applying our own distortions.  To do this requires that we first be aware of our own distortions, prejudices and judgments of others.

A good question right now is what does all this mean to me as a project manager?  That is exactly the question we are going to pursue over the next few posts.  We will look at the specific aspects of Social Awareness that are most important to project managers.  We will also look at a few additional Social Awareness competencies that project managers can benefit from.  These includes emotional boundaries and the recognition of family of origin issues as they relate to our ability to see others clearly.

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