What is Social Competence?
Social competence is usually defined as the capacity to initiate and maintain satisfying relationships (Katz & McClellan, 1997). It is fed through emotional competence which is usually defined as the awareness of one’s own and others’ feelings, the capacity to empathize with others, to distinguish between inner feelings and the outward expression of them, and the awareness of the place of emotions in relationships (Saarni, 1999). It is pretty commonplace for people to be lacking in emotional and social competences. This is because of: a) the lack of empathy, and, b) the lack of responsibility. I understand that seems like a false statement. And, for some, it is. But when we consider most people’s ability to have complete empathy and responsibility it is merely a bold statement of fact. One that most people can’t accept, or even see.
What are Empathy and Responsibility?
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. And, responsibility is defined as a duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty of failure. In my opinion, this is why I find a great many people lack a real sense of responsibility and empathy. When I think of empathy and responsibility I hear the actor Will Smith stating “It is not your fault you experienced x but it is damned sure your responsibility to fix it”.
What’s Empathy Gotta Do With It?
Empathy is the external factor of responsibility. If we only take the definition of empathy at face value we are led to believe that it the act of understanding how someone feels. This often leads to sympathy, empathies evil twin. However, it goes deeper than the understanding of how someone feels. Someone told me when I was young that it is the act of putting myself in others’ shoes. This was the most complete definition of empathy that anybody had ever offered me. Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t exactly internalize it for many years. See, empathy goes so deep. It is not arguing with your parents or a leader even when you know you have a better way of doing something; it is allowing another person to feel they are right because proving them wrong would be more damaging to them than it is to your ego. Empathy is that and so many more things. It is essentially entwined in all relations and communications with anybody outside ourselves. I mean, truly, we can display empathy for ourselves but that’s really what I call responsibility. There are three kinds of empathy: cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Cognitive empathy is not often seen as empathy; it is the act of seeing another individual’s perspective. Emotional empathy is the first empathy we often learn, and for many of us, it is the one we stop at. Emotional empathy is when we feel another individual’s feelings. Although we often understand emotional empathy, some of us don’t use it to its fullest potential. Compassionate empathy is when we feel and take action. This is the most appropriate type of empathy. But it is often underused as a human skill. Understanding all types of empathy and when it is appropriate to use each, and to what depth, is extremely important. It is also important to know that having empathy isn’t always about being nice, but it is always about being kind.
Taking Responsibility Equals Freedom
It took me many years to learn what it truly means to take full responsibility for myself and my life. And, since I have learned, I am now on a mission to ensure my family experiences responsibility to its fullest. This one was hard for me because I didn’t choose my life. I did not make my father beat me, or my mother overdose in front of me. I did not decide to expose myself to unhealthy sexuality, or a life of crime. So, how the hell was it my fault that I was doing the things I was doing? Wouldn’t it be my parent’s fault? After-all, they failed to give me the tools. This was an easy narrative to tell, one that easily allowed me to shirk responsibility. What made this narrative so easy to tell? It was absolutely fucking true. IT WAS THEIR FAULT! So that’s where I kept my narrative, kept my focus. It is not my fault that I am living like this. Every time I had a negative experience in my life, which was both often and extreme, I would say one of three things or a combination of them:
- Why is this happening to me?
- This isn’t my fault! / If only I was born into a different family.
- Why didn’t my parents give me the tools I need?
Then I went through the definitive end of my relationship. This relationship ended for many reasons. Some were my shitty inputs, some hers, and some a hybrid joint effort. To say I was in love and felt love was an understatement. However, neither of us could function in the cesspool of pain, hatred, and insecurity we brought into our life. One of the things I distinctly remember thinking is how can I make this better? I didn’t know it at the time, but I wasn’t taking full responsibility. And, neither was she. I heard so many stories about how she was the victim and it was all my fault. I blamed her cheating, her ability to make me feel so wrong for everything she was ever insecure about. I told so many stories to shirk responsibility and I padded it all with how good I was to her and how hard I worked for her. The problem with the narratives I was telling myself, and always had is they just didn’t feel right. I was telling these narratives with a focus on “fixing” our relationship. My reality was that I was going to change and our family would come back together. In actual reality, I wasn’t taking full responsibility so if that happened I would have fallen back into my old abusive habits. It was the fact of me trusting that my narratives didn’t feel right which saved me from falling back into an unhealthy life and created the beginning of a third alternative and a much healthier lifestyle. One day I was sitting in the chair in my therapist’s office and I was talking about all the things I did wrong, all the things I did that would have naturally driven her to seek love from another man. At some point in the ramblings of my new view, he stopped me and said “Okay, but you know it takes two to tango right?” And, without skipping a beat for thought, I responded “Yes, I just can’t concentrate on what she did or I won’t ever change”. He stopped and stared at me. Which admittedly made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I had never made a therapist lost for words, I did make one cry once with a story of my childhood, but never lost for words. When he began to speak again he had a tinge of confusion, surprise, and admiration in his voice. “It takes people so many years to get to this point where they’re actually being responsible for themselves,” he said. So, that’s what we concentrated on. Me being responsible for me. From that point on I learned and grew in the area of being fully responsible. It really changed a lot of narratives, and, a lot of outcomes.
What Are The Benefits?
I see so many people who don’t know how to take full responsibility for themselves. These people have an outlook that life is happening to them instead of for them. Often times they will mock the idea of taking responsibility and take the position that they know how to be responsible but they would never let people use them, take advantage of them, so on and so on. To these types, taking responsibility begins and ends at apologizing for their behaviors. And, in some cases, changing poor behaviors just enough to get by. Although apologizing is a great thing to do, when it is sincere, it is merely cosmetic if the person making the apology is not being fully responsible for themselves. And, changing poor behaviors is necessary, but it is superficial if it is not paired with unadulterated responsibility of self. Essentially, taking responsibility comes from within. It is the rawest form of honesty one could ever provide for themselves. When we live a responsible life we can expect:
- Increased confidence: When we are taking full responsibility for ourselves we have more clarity in life. We easily understand how everything in life impacts us and how we impact things.
- Improved decision making: Because we have more clarity in our lives and we are more confident we are able to make decisions more effectively. We can do this because we understand the following:
- Mistakes are fixable and valuable.
- We don’t need to be mired down by overthinking.
- Fear becomes a tool.
- We own our decisions and the consequences.
- Better problem solving: With increased confidence and decision making skills we are able to solve problems more effectively.
- Relationships become better: Although it is a foreign concept to most people to be completely responsible for ourselves it is an absolute need. It is also something we naturally look for in others, even if we can’t articulate that. When we possess a sense absolute responsibility two things happen:
- We attract a higher caliber individual.
- We experience an increase in trust.
It is difficult to get this right all the time. Mostly because the act of being completely responsible is such a high vibrational act and, as we all know, high vibration requires more self-awareness. Although difficult to be in a peak state one-hundred percent of the time it is imperative to understand we should be there as often as we can. Having and claiming responsibility for ourselves has so many positive outcomes. The entire world changes, problems are easier to manage, we live from the inside out, and, we operate with the best intentions. Sure, not everybody will be able to see things from your perspective. But, the beautiful thing about living life responsibly is that you are okay with it. You are in control, actual control, not just a perception of control. When you understand that you are responsible for your actions, for your own joy, and for your own success and failures then it becomes so much easier to exist among and within the human race. It becomes so much easier to provide value to the world and to create positive synergy.
|About Jason White
|Jason White is a father, a grandfather, a knowledge seeker, and a sharer. Jason is the owner of Growth Positive Consulting where he puts his fundraising and management skills to great use. He is a writer, a woodworker, and a philanthropist. Find him here: