Frequently, such a person will say, ‘Oh yeah – people skills – very important in today’s world’.”
As Karl puts it in his book Social Intelligence, often times the biggest obstacle to learning new things is the belief that you already know it. Personally, I’ve been through this struggle often times throughout my life and I still do. To overcome it, I have to humble myself and to assume I know nothing. After all, I know little.
I also meet people that like to do speed reading or skimming through books without taking the time to find the real gems inside a book, given it is fiction or non-fiction. Lack of focus is one of the major factors why most people fail in life. And often times in relationships.
Applying the same speed reading principles and skimming through on social interactions, one may never have close friends, a devoted lover, and mutually-respectful business partnerships.
Karl Albrecht wrote an entire book on the subject; it’s on the strategy to get as much as you can from social interactions. He elegantly named it “S.P.A.C.E.”.
SPACE – Or how to Achieve your Social Genius
A big shout out to Selena Soo for letting me know that, in social interactions you either provide value, or take up space. I think I’m overusing the word space…
SPACE stands for:
A few words on each…
1. Situational Awareness
To be able to understand and empathize with people in specific situations.
Say you’re with a close friend who’s gonna be dispatched for 10 years in Tanzania to study fossils of dead birds. He needs to leave in 2 weeks. Big money is at stake. And he is supposed to get married in 3 months…It’s a very complex situation…
You’re not gonna say: Uhmm, that sucks…Wanna go shoot some balls?
In this context, situational awareness means to empathize (and identify) with his tough moment of decision. It means to be able to sense his feelings and make predictions of his most likely intentions. You may not want to stand firm on your position and tell him to pack as soon as possible (if you’re a greedy bastard) when you read the pain in his eyes and know how much he cares for her…
Situational awareness is to stay above the context to get the big picture and the objective idea, but to also know the details so that you can make the appropriate gestures and say the right words…
Better put in Karl’s own words:
Sit in an airport, at a mall, or some other public place and watch people go by. Try to figure out the kinds of relationships you see between couples, families, and groups. How do they signal their relationship and their affiliation? Do they convey affection and affirmation, or do they seem cold or even antagonistic?
2. Presence (being there)
How you affect people through your looks, your mood, and your body language.
Presence is long gone in most current human inter-connections. Given you’re singing Happy Birthday to your friend, or you’re assisting to the birth of your first child, or you’re on the top of the world, you may never be fully present. Wake up!
After seeing the video, you know what I mean.
Often times, being fully present allows you to be charismatic, to be charming.
It is because charisma goes hand in hand with situational awareness.
Discipline yourself to read the context, adapt to it, be present, be fully present, be charismatic… and you’ll become magnetic.
Adopt the no-smartphone rule in social situations. Leave it in a bag. Don’t sleep with your smartphone (it may hurt your brain). Don’t keep it inside your pocket (it may hurt your future off-springs).
Some ordinary mortals try – usually in vain – to award themselves a kind of charisma by dressing expensively, acting dramatically, and making grand entrances.
Don’t be that person.
Listen to The Art of Charm.
How honest and sincere you are with people and, most importantly, with yourself.
The beauty of it is that one cannot trick and/or hack into social intelligence. All these factors that make up the SPACE approach cannot co-exist without one another. You cannot be authentic and not be present. You can fake it until a certain point, but then it will come out.
Authentic means being true to yourself.
It starts with building your core values on the inside and then displaying them on the outside. It is like a continuous thread: you marry your inside with your outside.
Authentic means getting rid of social masks. When you are authentic and do not wear a social mask, bad people would not be able to stand near you…
To become more authentic (in Karl’s own words):
– stay away from people who try to make you act against your personal value; choose yourself.
– keep track and eliminate situations when you did something and later felt uneasy about it.
– read books on values and ethics (I recommend stoicism).
– write your personal mission statement (why you are here).
How to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions clearly.
Clarity builds upon authenticity. If what you think is what you say, then you are clear and authentic.
Of course, let’s not think about the extremes (‘I wanna have sex with you right now’). In this particular case, the approach should be slightly different, but not too far different. 🙂
Clarity means having a way with words. It cannot be sustained by a poor vocabulary. To build a strong vocabulary is to minimize time on coffee breaks, gossips, and other social chit-chat situations and to increase your time reading (in your mind and out loud).
Reading out loud is the backbone of building: intonation, accent, diction, inflection as well as speech sound quality.
When you’re ready, take it to next level. Do it in social contexts, appropriately. You cannot speak in technical terms with less articulate friends, though you can use technical terms to help your friends become more aware of the nitty-gritty of what you do. Adapt your vocabulary to the situation.
Some people seem constitutionally incapable of editing their story; they can’t seem to summarize, they wander off into unrelated details, and they lose the thread of their basic idea.
Clarity implies simplified structure and straightforward flow of ideas. It implies ideas with both a beginning and an end. Not too long so you yourself lose track of it. Not too short so you seem superficial.
Yet, many times, this advice helps best with clarity:
Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut (E. Elliot)
Last but not least, the glue. Empathy is the ingredient that holds all other factors together. It is the catalyst.
To put it simply, empathy is the condition of rapport between people. It refers to the sense of connectedness that allows people to cooperate. I wrote more about the concept of empathy in this blogpost.
To build empathy Karl advises for:
– increasing attentiveness on others (higher situational awareness)
– spending more time listening than talking (one of the reasons you may have two ears and only one mouth)
– increasing appreciation for those who you interact with
– increasing affirmation (becoming more agreeable or more reserved instead of being the nay-sayer).
What I’d like to end up with is that the synergistic effect of all the 5 factors combined may never be achieved by either of the factors alone. It’s not natural and most likely not possible to do so. They all have to work together.
And this is a blueprint, which means that you’ll most likely get more from and into your social and inter-human interactions if you follow it and if you adapt it to your personal situation. This was only brief overview of the wide approach and if you want to learn all the details that Karl shares with his readers, go get his book.
Looking at your personal day-to-day social interactions, please be honest and tell me what are the areas you feel you have to work on more!?
1. Karl Albrecht – Social Intelligence – The New Science of Success
2. The Art of Charm Podcast – Creating VIP Connections with Selena Soo
3. Sally Hogshead – Are you adding value? Or taking up Space?