Social Behavior and Assessment of Others

Almost all of us have social flaws of some sort, ranging from the relatively harmless to those that can get us in trouble. Perhaps it could be that we talk too much, or are too honest in our criticisms of people, or take offence too easily when others do not respond positively to our ideas.

If we repeat instances of such behaviour often enough, we tend to offend people without ever really knowing why. The reason for this is twofold: first, we are quick to discern the mistakes and defects of others, but when it comes to ourselves we are generally too emotional and insecure to look squarely at our own. Second, people rarely tell us the truth about what it is that we do wrong. They are afraid to cause conflict or to be viewed as mean-spirited. And so it becomes very difficult for us to perceive our flaws, let alone correct them.

We sometimes have the experience of doing work that we consider to be quite brilliant, and they are rather shocked when we receive feedback from others who do not see it the same way at all. In such moments we are made aware of the discrepancy between our emotional and subjective relationship to our own work, and the response of others who view it with complete detachment, capable of pointing out flaws we could never see.

The same discrepancy, however, exists on the social level. People see our behaviour from the outside, and their view of us is never what we imagine it to be. To have the power to see ourselves through the eyes of others would be of immense benefit to our social intelligence. We could begin to correct the flaws that offend, to see the role that we play in creating any kind of negative dynamic, and to have a more realistic assessment of who we are.

We can begin this process by looking at negative events in our past – people sabotaging our work, bosses firing us for no logical reason, nasty personal battles with colleagues. It is best to start with events that are at least several months old, and thus not so emotionally charged. In dissecting these occurrences, we must focus on what we did that either triggered or worsened the dynamic.

In looking at several such incidents, we might begin to see a pattern that indicates a particular flaw in our character. Seeing these events from the perspective of the other people involved will loosen the lock our emotions have on our self-image and help us understand the role we play in our own mistakes.

We can also elicit opinions from those we trust about our behaviour, making certain to first reassure them that we want their criticisms. Slowly, in this way, we can develop increasing self-detachment, which will yield us the other half of social intelligence—the ability to see ourselves as we really are.

Keep Learning. Keep Growing. Stay Positive.
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