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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Increasing Your Social Fitness

How you interact with others across situations and your ability to speak and act on your values in the face of situational pressure is what psychologist Philip Zimbardo and colleagues call ‘social fitness’. Even though the building of social fitness might benefit from techniques like learning to give at least one compliment to one person each day and from telling others what’s unique about them, I believe more fundamental work has to be done before social fitness is built to last and to succeed.

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee have written a book titled Primal Leadership – Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. These authors and researchers talk about the four components of emotional intelligence: self awareness and self-management (clustered as ‘personal competence) and social awareness and relationship management (clustered as ‘social competence). These four components are crucial not just in effective, inspiring leadership as the authors argue convincingly, but in healthy, happy living and working for anyone.

The four components, or better, capabilities, determine how you manage yourself and how you manage relationships. Is there anything else as important to manage? I don’t think so, whether you’re a leader or not, whether you’re employed or not, but with the recognition, of course, that for leaders (including parents who lead their children and everyone leading inside or outside the realm of business) it might be even more crucial to be leading (or better living) with a high Emotional Intelligence considering their influence on others.  

Both self awareness and social awareness are the basis for self management and relationship management, and both types of awareness are rooted in the views and principles of the Gestalt Psychology on which I have written before http://www.caromoors.blogspot.com/2011/03/gestalt-approach-to-organizational.html)

The three elements of self-awareness that Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee identify are emotional self awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence (see also: Why Women Leaders Need Self-Confidence on HBR Blog Network by Leslie Pratch). Some important aspects of self-management are, not surprisingly, self-control, transparency, adaptability, and optimism. In the category social awareness, empathy plays a crucial role. J. K. Rowling’s perspective on this component of emotional intelligence is “Imagining yourself into the lives of others” as she put it in a marvelous speech that I highly recommend you watch, with thanks to my dear friend Margje Ramaker who sent me the link: http://pottermoreravenclaws.tumblr.com/post/13486344610/j-k-rowling-on-failure-and-success-suggested

As for the last of the four major components of emotional intelligence, relationship management, and thus the fourth component of social fitness, Goleman and colleagues list inspiration, influence, developing others, and conflict management as some of the defining ingredients.

With this list of elements of strong self awareness and strong social awareness, it will be clear that there is a lot of work to do to build lasting social fitness, but also work that can begin right here and now, step by step, with the help of Goleman’s books on the topic or any other resource delving deeper into the ‘what, how, and where to’ of emotional intelligence. With such great authors and resources I do not feel the need to rewrite, add, or duplicate. I merely wish you many successful and inspiring social fitness sessions, because the discovery and growth never has to end and maintenance is as key here as it is in keeping up your house, yard, or car!

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