Social savvy is the the art of getting buy-in, earning other people’s respect, and helping them to believe in you and your cause. It is not something that you can turn on and off when it suits you, nor is it a means to an end. It is simply the right way to behave. However, like all proper behavior it does have beneficial ramifications.
Exercising social savvy is important for everyone. People in authority will often make the mistake of assuming that they don’t need savvy because they call the shots. This is a foolish oversight. Authority can always be taken away, often is taken away, and can be done so in the blink of an eye. You want and need people to believe in you and be on your side.
And then there are the people who think they’ll never be able to have any real influence, so they don’t bother ever trying to make a difference. This, of course, is tragic. For one, because it denies the world their potentially significant contributions. But it is also tragic because it is self-victimizing. They excuse themselves from the duty of contribution by claiming that their power has been taken from them. Make no mistake, there are people in this world whose power truly has been taken from them due to inhumane and deplorable acts. Claiming you are oppressed because your boss is a jerk is unacceptable.
There is a third group, however, who don’t exercise savvy simply because they don’t know how. If you fall into this group, you’re in luck, because you’re about to find out how. There are just two keys to savvy and they are easy to remember:
1. Don’t Be a Jerk
Be sincere in intention and action. Don’t exaggerate situations or circumstances. Sure, tell a good story, but don’t blow things out of proportion. There’s a difference.
It’s not all about you. Listen to people. Don’t be so eager to have your say. Make the effort and create the opportunity for other people to say what they need to say. Show them respect, be honest, and have empathy or sympathy for their situations. If you’re talking to people with the hope and intent that they will somehow provide you an opportunity, you’re doing it wrong. You are there for them.
2. Don’t Be a Pushover
Communicate with clarity and conviction. And in order to speak with conviction, you must be knowledgable. If you are not knowledgable about the topic, ask questions and listen (see above). Know of where you speak.
When you do need to make somethings happen in order to make a significant and worthy contribution, do it with finesse. That means knowing how to negotiate, persuade, and influence—topics covered in more detail in Self-leadership.