Social Awareness: Definition, Example & Theories

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  • 0:04 Social Awareness
  • 0:41 Theories
  • 1:42 Examples of Social Awareness
  • 3:48 Promoting Social Awareness
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Being socially aware is important for healthy relationships, both personal and professional. This lesson defines social awareness and gives tips for improving social awareness.

Social Awareness

Have you ever experienced that awkward feeling when an acquaintance joins a gathered group of friends and says the absolute wrong thing at exactly the wrong time? Everyone gets really quiet; maybe someone laughs nervously. Did you think to yourself, ''Why would he say that now? Couldn't he see that it was the wrong time for it?''

Social awareness is the ability to comprehend and appropriately react to both broad problems of society and interpersonal struggles. This means that being socially aware relates to being aware of your environment, what's around you, as well as being able to accurately interpret the emotions of people with whom you interact.


Social awareness requires competency in areas such as emotional intelligence and empathy. Theoretically, social awareness is actually the interworking of multiple concepts at once.

  • Social sensitivity means empathy for others and the ability to infer
  • Social insight means moral judgment and the ability to comprehend situations quickly
  • Social communication means the ability to interact appropriately with others, including problem-solving interactions

Some even equate the theory of emotional intelligence with social awareness. Revisiting the previous example, if the acquaintance had noticed that the group of friends seemed to be having a serious discussion, he may have refrained from telling a crass joke. He might even have asked if everything was okay in the group before bringing the attention to himself. This would have shown a high level of emotional intelligence.

Additionally, others, like Howard Gardner, equate social awareness with a theory of social intelligence, which relates to a person's interpersonal skills and ability to motivate others into cooperative behaviors.

Examples of Social Awareness

Having strong social awareness skills is important in both your personal and professional life. Let's look at a few examples of people demonstrating great social awareness and those showing a need for improvement.

Eugenia is the CEO of a busy company. The day of her staff meeting, she charged into the room with a strong agenda, ready to get down to business. Immediately, Eugenia noticed that something was wrong. She could see by their expressions and body language that her staff were having difficulties. Instead of pushing on with her agenda, Eugenia paused to ask for feedback from the others. She learned of some issues in the company, made some management changes, and when the meeting concluded everyone felt heard and supported. Eugenia showed strong social awareness in her actions.

Let's now look at another example of social awareness. Ted wanted to share a funny cat video with his roommate. Upon walking into the roommate's room, Ted noticed that his roommate had been crying. Instead of showing him the video, Ted asked if his roommate was okay and proceeded to listen as his roommate shared a sad story.

While these two individuals displayed good social awareness, the next two scenarios display poor social awareness.

Ray is a father with two sons and a wife. Sometimes Ray gets stressed out with work and has even been known to slam his keyboard down when frustrated. His youngest son often flinches when he sees Dad become angry like this. When his wife brings it up, Ray states ''Am I not allowed to express my feelings? It isn't like I yelled at anyone.'' Ray is showing a real lack of social awareness and an understanding that his emotional expression impacts those around him.

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