Social Skills – Integration – Social Perception

Friday, October 1st, 2010 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Our seventh step around the spiral each lap has been on Social Skills, and in the first lap we tackled social perception.

You will remember that we talked about seeing the way people are thinking in the way they move their body. How by concentrating on the eyes, hands, feet, shoulders, mirroring behaviour and tone of voice of a person as you speak you will learn, just by the power of attention and practice, to better understand the signals being sent to you through someone’s gestures and posture.

We also discussed social hierarchies, the pecking-order of dominance that exists wherever two or more people are together, and how those same signals that you are looking for to understand body language will also help you gauge the relationships between others.

When exaggerated from merely a handful of people to an entire party full, these effects sum and average out to produce a “vibe”, a general guage of the mood of the room, encoded and judged entirely by the people in it, and the subconscious signals they are constantly sending each other.

No doubt over the time since we discussed these things, assuming you have remembered to pay attention to those signals, gone over them again and again in your mind, you will have improved noticeably and be far more likely than before to be able to judge a crowd’s mood, the relationships between individuals, and the intent and emotions of your conversational partners. You’ll have seen the improvement this has given your social skills, but how has it affected the other skills in the spiral? How has it been affected by them?

As mentioned, focusing your awareness on these signals is essentially how your social perception is built in the first place. There are a million different things you could associate with the emotional states of your friends. The colour of the carpet, the clouds in the sky, the direction of the wind, the time of day, the smells wafting from the next room. Most of these signals are useless in predicting the behaviour of your friends, and your awareness, your attention, is how you instruct your brain which things are likely to be important so that it can narrow down the range of things to try and find patterns in.

And as you become more aware of the unconscious social signals from those around you, your awareness will benefit from their awareness. You will tend to look where they look, notice things they notice. These clues help make your awareness more keen, teach it better to find the relevent parts of the world.

Your memory is the system which you use to learn the patterns of social signals from your compatriots over time. Your memory lets you see how often a smile is associated with good mood or a frown with social tension. Without memory, none of the spiral skills could work at all.

As you became more aware of the social signals from others, your own awareness of the signals you are sending out will have inevitably increased. Awareness of how you yourself feel when smiling or frowning or crossing your legs in just that way, awareness of your body, improves social perception by informing it as it learns.

Your ability to think, your cognition skill, learns much of what it learns by mimicking others, by understanding the thinking processes they go through. Would a child alone learn to use a door? Perhaps. But certainly his awareness of the people around him, his willingness to copy them, leads him much more quickly to learn to turn the door knob.

Finally of course your ethics rely on understanding what other people do and don’t like. If you think they’re likely to enjoy being beaten and robbed then it’s much easier to do these things to them. However, your social skills let you see when you are upsetting someone, when you are hurting your relationship with them. An ethical system simply must be informed by these kinds of variables.