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What is Social Intelligence?

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 1 Aug 2014 | comments*Discuss
Social Intelligence Social Cognition

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 Intelligences

Harvard 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 Intelligence

Social 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.

What Happens When You Lack in Social Intelligence?

People with high social intelligence are often said to have “nourishing behaviours” which make others around them feel valued, loved, respected and appreciated. These people are very appealing to others and are often described as having a “magnetic personality”. Conversely, people low in social intelligence are often described as “toxic” – they cause others to feel angry, devalued, frustrated, inadequate or guilty. They are often very alienating people. Interestingly, however, often people can be unintentionally “toxic” and their low social intelligence is simply due to lack of insights. In other words, they are often so preoccupied with personal stresses that they fail to see the impact of their behaviour on others. They will often undergo radical behavioural or even personality changes when made to see themselves as others see them.

Can Social Intelligence Be Improved?

While some of us are naturally blessed with superior social skills, others may need to work harder at them. The good news is that many believe social intelligence can be nurtured and improved upon, especially during early childhood and adolescence. In fact, many believe that it ought to be a developmental priority in early education, public schooling and adult professional development. This way, individuals learn to win the respect they crave, to influence others effectively and achieve their objectives by working from empathy. It is more than just trying to make yourself more likable – having better social intelligence can reduce conflict and create more efficient and effective collaboration, so that we all move towards common gaols and ultimately ensure survival of our species.

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Excellent this notes but add here some components and factors of SQ. as well as theory of SI
dr.bharat - 1-Aug-14 @ 6:41 PM
This site was very helpful. Thank you.
Kimmie - 25-Nov-11 @ 4:45 PM
Social Intelligence on the online worldwide web is expression without fear, put simply, in my opinion.
Sheri - 5-Apr-11 @ 9:28 PM
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