Social cues are important.
In the workforce, especially in upper management, it is vital to be able to read people to gage their emotional state and comfort levels in a situation. A social cue can be a positive or negative, verbal or non-verbal hint. These cues guide conversation and other social interactions. A few examples of social cues include: facial expressions, vocal tone, body language, body posture, gestures, and proximity.
Social cues serve several purposes in social interactions that help to clarify people’s meanings and intentions. Cues help provide clues as to whether or not one is being accepted or rejected by those around them.
Yesterday, I encountered a man whom came into the office. I will call him “K” for privacy’s sake. He asked how Mother’s Day was. I responded that ‘it was nice’, and continued to work. I do not like getting too personal.
He asked the same question to another person in the office, whom I will call “J”. “J” responded similarly, that “it was nice”. The man proceeded to ask if “J” called his mother to wish her happy Mother’s Day, to which it was clearly visible, to me, made “J” uncomfortable. “J” responded that we could not do that, as she had passed on many years ago. “K” proceeded to speak about how “J” was ‘too young’ to have lost his mother, to which “J” responded that he lost his mother when he was in his early 20’s.
“K” continues this conversation and begins to discuss how he still has his mother, but lost his grandparents when he was a toddler. He talks on and on about other people in his family, and when they lost their parents and grandparents.
The subject of death and lost loved ones is a sensitive and personal topic so naturally, most people would say something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry to hear that’, and would move on from it. That’s not what happened here, and it really made me think about how people often miss important social cues or don’t have subject sensitivity. I believe that social cues are a very important part of survival in the world. Just as you can tell when an animal is about to strike, people should be able to tell when another person is uncomfortable, or uneasy, getting angry or sad, before they reach the obvious state of that emotion.(crying, yelling, walking away, ect.)
The situation in general makes me wonder: Is it just an unfortunate case of honest ignorance, is it something that is a natural ability, or is it something that should be taught to everyone when they are young?