Social Skills – Social Perception – Social Perception

Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

We are a deeply, intrinsically, social species. We operate as a group, teach and learn from each other, help and assist each other, exploit and use each other. None of us can even survive without help from others, let alone transcend.

The oil which greases the wheels of cooperation is our ability to understand each other. To see what others think and want and need. Our ‘social perception’ skill is our ability to understand the intentions, emotions, communications, even deceptions and hidden motives of other people. We each use all of our physical perceptive skills to see subtle signals given off by others and combine them into new abstractions in ways which are as indescribable as trying to use words to reproduce a Rorschach inkblot test.

Understanding “Non verbal communication” is, of course, a major component of social perception. Interpreting body language, seeing what a person’s ticks, posture, tells and mannerisms can tell you about a them. But this is far from the whole story because context also matters. A person’s body-language is modulated by their emotional state, situation, stress and pressure, individual differences. Even clothing matters: A uniform affects how you perceive someone and even how they perceive themselves, the authority and social status it can convey.

Perhaps even more obviously, social perception involves listening to and understanding verbal communication. Quite often understanding people well is simply a question of asking them and listening to their reply. Literally taking people at their word (and knowing when not to) is the most basic social perception skill of them all.

Verbal communication contains more than just the text of the message. Just as every tic we unthinkingly act out comes in a context, so every word comes in a context, and with a subtext, and with meaning on more than just the surface level.

Beyond even that the voice used to articulate the words matters: Tone, stress, emphasis, the look and softness in the eye while the words are spoken.

Your amazing brain takes in all this information, processes it and categorises it and seeks patterns in it before signalling it’s conclusions, mostly subconsciously by just changing the way you feel, your mood, to your higher consciousness.

Improving Social Perception

Given how indescribably complex all this neural processing and pattern recognition is, how can you improve your abilities?

The first way, of course, is simply though practice. Though talking to people, trying to guess their meaning, their mood, their motives and desires. Ideally consciously paying attention to the list of signals described above as you do so, and watching for those patterns, remembering that they will differ from one person to the next, from one social group to the next, from one neighbourhood to the next, from one county, country and culture to the next.

Just reading that list above will have already primed you to improve the quality of the benefit from the practice you get from every interaction you have. Upcoming articles will deepen that understanding and simply thinking about these things will improve your understanding more.

This Month’s Guided Meditation

As you listen to our meditation this month, you’ll be asked to use visualisation and association techniques to ensure that you begin to pay more attention to your social exchanges, that you remember which kids of things to look out for during those interactions and it will encourage you to recall past interactions and reinforce the perception patterns which you found successful.

You’ll notice more often that you’re noticing yourself in those situations, and thus they will stick more clearly in your memory. You’ll enjoy those conversations more, and spend time imagining yourself seeking out more social interaction.

You’ll be asked to notice your improvement, suggesting that very improvement as you measure it.

Guided Meditation File 7 – Social Skills – Social Perception