You may have heard the expression, “reading the room”. This is the ability for someone to understand what is going on around them and react as needed. The fancier term is external awareness. And let’s face it, I am super fancy so that’s what we will call it!
Awareness is knowing what is going on around you. It’s another piece of the emotional intelligence puzzle. Having awareness of others can open your eyes. Awareness helps you become a better leader. It will definitely help you improve your relationships with friends and family members.
But let’s face it, with everything going on in our own world, it’s hard to be more aware. I can recall many times when I have stepped into a meeting and just jumped in with what I needed to say without considering who else was in the room. Not the best idea!
As a coach, I help my clients focus on setting the tone of a meeting by making sure they take a minute to take a breath. I ask them to do this before our sessions too. Taking a breath helps them focus and be present. When you step into your next meeting, take a breath, set down your phone and laptop and look around. You can tell a lot from people’s body language. Read the room. Focus and adjust for whoever is in the meeting. Be present.
Being aware is also about knowing how to address your audience in the right way to drive impact. Adjusting your message will benefit you in getting the message across. This will help to bring people along too, if you are appealing to their needs and If you are meeting with your CFO, focus on the numbers. When you are meeting with the sales team, focus on sales and engagement.
Empathy is defined as being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s trying to understand their feelings. I have come to realize it’s hard to be empathetic. You cannot possibly understand everything that has affected how a person behaves. But, if you get to know them, you can come to understand them a bit. Finding similarities is actually easy once you get to know the person. You don’t have to see eye to eye on everything but you can find common ground. This will help you see why they act a certain way. If someone always acts tough, ask them to share a little bit about themselves to get some clarity on why. If someone has been marginalized in some way, they will be more aware of the marginalized. Your ability to lead comes down to trying to put yourself in their shoes and see why they act a certain way. This drives your external awareness higher, which will help you. It’s easy to only think of yourself. If you show some empathy, this will improve your interactions.
The main goal of external awareness is to look outside of yourself. If you can do this, you will be able to make more of an impact in everyone around you. You will be taking a lot of breaths and trying on a lot of shoes, and it will be worth it.