What is Social Intelligence?
It has long been observed that while some people may have strong intellectual abilities, they seem to struggle to master social skills which enable them to interact successfully with other people. This ability to “get along” with others has now been officially recognised as a form of competency or even a specific type of intelligence: social intelligence.
The Theory of Multiple IntelligencesHarvard professor, Howard Gardner, was the first to put forward the idea that rather than being a single trait denoted by “IQ”, human intelligence is composed of a range of interwoven competencies or distinct “intelligences”. These can be broadly divided into Abstract Intelligence (symbolic reasoning), Practical Intelligence (getting things done), Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness and self-management), Aesthetic Intelligence (sense of music, art, design, form and literature), Kinesthetic Intelligence (whole-body skills, such as sports, dance or manoeuvring moving machinery, eg. flying planes or driving cars) and lastly, Social Intelligence (dealing with people). In essence, these different dimensions of intelligence are like the different faces of a cube, each positioned at a different angle to the others but each coming together to form a whole. The most successful humans would obviously have the best-integrated combination of these multiple intelligences, although no living person would ever attain the ideal. The concept of multiple intelligences also suggests that these competencies are things that people can learn about and improve in, even in adulthood.
The Dimensions of Social IntelligenceSocial intelligence can be described as a combination of abilities: the first is a basic understanding of people (ie. a kind of strategic social awareness) and the second is the skills needed for interacting successfully with them. In other words, the ability to get along with other and to encourage them to cooperate with you. Social intelligence can be thought of as encompassing five dimensions:
- Presence – your external image or sense of self that is perceived by others, eg, confidence, self-respect or self-worth.
- Clarity – your ability to express yourself clearly, explain concepts clearly and using language effectively, while persuading with ideas.
- Awareness – your ability to understand social contexts that influence behaviour (ie. “read situations”) and to choose the behavioural strategies most likely to be successful.
- Authenticity – the way of behaviour which gives a perception of honesty.
- Empathy – your ability to create a sense of connection with others and to encourage them to cooperate with you, rather than work against you, as well as an appreciation for the emotions and experiences of others.