By Daniel Lock

Change management has much to do emotional intelligence. One of the building blocks of emotional intelligence is social awareness. The ability to understand and appreciate the concerns and differences of the people you are dealing with will go a long way in helping you sell your changes to them.

The first step towards implementing effective changes in your business is to understand the meaning of social awareness, its importance, and some of its key principles.

What Is Social Awareness?

Social awareness helps you understand and react to broad problems facing a group of people and their interpersonal struggles. It is about being socially conscious of your environment. This includes your surroundings, and interpreting the emotions of those who you interact with.

The Importance of Social Awareness in Change Management

Change stirs up emotions. This in turn can cause tunnel vision and narrows down your productive choices. As a change leader, having social awareness will help your team members cope with changes. Even challenging organizational change such as new technologies, restructuring, globalization, mergers and acquisitions.

Helps You to Tap into People’s Emotions

Transforming and moving through change often involves dealing strong emotions. This happens as stakeholders begin to assess the implications of the change. According to William Bridges, change management involves different stages. Productivity is reduced as people cope with the confusion, denial, and frustration before they become engaged around the new setting.

Social awareness will help you as a leader become more productive in implementing changes. For example, you will inform your team members about the importance of the changes and get their views on the same.

Helps You Boost Confidence in New Ideals

Neuroscience findings have shown that humans crave stability. Uncertainty breeds neural responses in a person’s anterior cingulate cortex, the amygdala, and the insula, with physiological reactions as well. Leveraging social awareness makes you more effective at understanding the interests of your team members, their concerns, and how to engage them effectively.

You should seek to show and explain to them how a new system is better and more stable than the previous system. As a result, you will be able to neutralize their resistance to the proposed changes.

Helps You Highlight the Rewards to Be Gained

Change messaging is effective when it focuses on the “What’s in it for me?” When trying to push for a change effort, you will round up a cross-section of employees. This way, you can better anticipate and understand different responses.

Note the change communication needs to be consistent, relevant, and aligned. People notice when there are inconsistencies between your words and actions. Social awareness skills help you win over your team members by highlighting the benefits of the new system, promoting positive action.

The Principles of Social Awareness


Trust helps you improve the way things are done. It minimizes transaction costs. People trust individuals whom they believe are true to their word. Whenever trust is present, there is no need for lengthy and costly contracts with everyone you deal with. Therefore, it is important to learn how to earn the trust of those you interact with.

Social Norms

Social norms are another aspect of social awareness. Humans are social creatures. The evolution theory pushes forth the idea of people living in groups for survival rather than alone. However, for every group of people that sticks together, there must be cooperation.

For them to relate peacefully, there has to be a set of behavioural values or standards that guide behaviour. Social norms are ever changing. Those who do not abide by the social norms are punished, and they become outcasts. Jail, for example, is a form of punishment and social exclusion.

Pressure to conform to social norms is powerful. For instance, peer pressure is associated with leading teenagers astray. When you gain an understanding of the impact of social norms as a leader, you will be able to adopt more effective strategies for change management.

Social Status 

Social status is another important principle of social awareness. Everybody builds their identity by comparing themselves to others. Also, people judge their intelligence levels by comparing themselves with others.

Jordan Peterson is known for his theory of dominance hierarchy. The dominance hierarchy is the way humans climb and find their position. The theory arises when individuals in a social group interact and form a ranking system.

In these social groups, members compete for limited opportunities. Instead of fighting for these resources, rank is established. In the course of repetitive interactions, a social order is formed and is subject to change every time a senior person is challenged by their subordinate. In essence, understanding social status can enable you implement change in their management based on a person’s ranking.


Change management is not concerned with changing who people are but changing their behaviour. One of the well-known ways of effecting change management is social awareness. As a leader, it is essential that you learn about the importance of social awareness and its core principles if you are to succeed in implementing new systems in your organization.

Daniel Lock helps organisations unlock value and productivity through process improvement, project & change management. Find out more about him at

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