Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 27, 2020

What Is Social Intelligence (And How to Increase Yours)

What Is Social Intelligence (And How to Increase Yours)

Have you been wondering how many past scenarios in your life could have turned out differently if you only knew the right way to react to them? Do you find yourself vowing to respond in a better way to similar situations if given a chance? You are not alone — not everyone is born with top-notch social intelligence.

Many people allowed opportunities to pass them by just because they were not attuned to the nuances of their social interactions. In truth, they could have avoided a lot of personal and professional disasters if the conflicts had been analyzed and dealt with correctly.[1]

However, to anticipate and handle critical social interactions with grace, you have to build up and tap into your social intelligence. In this complex world that we live in, you’ll be glad to have social intelligence backing you up as you navigate increasingly tumultuous waters.

What Does It Mean to Be Socially Intelligent?

To start with, most people associate intelligence with just the general type as it relates to analysis and reasoning. That’s all well and good, but there are also other forms of intelligence, which factor significantly in human interactions.

For one, there’s emotional intelligence, which refers to skills in understanding and managing your emotions. Emotionally intelligent folks can identify and evaluate these emotions and ultimately control them.[2]

  • If you were able to confirm that a misunderstanding or miscommunication occurred, take implicit or explicit blame for it. Apologize for what happened, regardless of whether it’s your fault or not. Instead of being misleading, you are using a diplomatic way of bringing up the issue so that the other person can still save face. The latter will be grateful to you for doing so, especially if they are the ones who misunderstood or misread the situation. Then, be explicit in explaining what you’d like to see and draw clear boundaries that you don’t want to see crossed.
  • If there aren’t misunderstandings, and there is a conflict between your desires and the other person’s, you may have the meta-conversation first. Take a step back with the person you are in conflict with and talk about the discussion that you are about to have. Instead of simply diving into the battle, convey something like, “Hey, it looks like we disagree here,” and figure out the nature of the disagreement.
  • If you realize that you are at fault, take responsibility and apologize to the other person. After that, discuss what you will do to prevent this kind of problem in the future.
  • In case someone else is at fault, though, don’t expect them to apologize or take responsibility, no matter how nice that would be. Many people are emotionally afraid of losing face and social status and will refuse to apologize or be responsible for their actions. Regardless, don’t let this get in the way of resolving the problem. Steer the conversation into what can be done to resolve the situation now and what can be done to prevent the same thing from occurring later.
  • If the disagreement is about what should be done about an issue, explore the reasons behind the conflict and be emotionally sensitive when doing so. Minimize blaming the other person and take blame quickly yourself when it’s appropriate. Differentiate what is definitively known versus what is assumed and then gather a reasonable amount of evidence to test assumptions. Finally, look for ways to resolve the disagreement in a win-win manner.
  • Each of these methods can be applied to a wide range of personal and professional situations.

    Being a human being can be hard, and we all want positive, productive, and genuine relationships.[3] When you use these social intelligence skills correctly, you will be able to get the best out of each interaction, and those you interact with will also place more confidence in you due to your consistent and transparent display. No one becomes a loser then even after the toughest of conflicts.

    Bottom Line

    There’s no doubt that social intelligence plays a crucial role in forming and fortifying human interactions. Learning and harnessing social intelligence skills will not only keep you highly relevant but also turn you into a trusted influencer in your personal and professional circles.

    More Social Skills for Success

    Featured photo credit: Phil Coffman via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Disaster Avoidance Experts: Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters
    [2] Know more about them in this guide: What Is Emotional Intelligence (And How to Develop It))

    As mentioned above, social intelligence exists, too. It is especially crucial during this pandemic when our routines and relationships have been rattled, if not upended. The uncertainty in the air calls for more careful handling of social interactions, specifically when dealing with new life scenarios, physical distance from our colleagues, and social changes in our close personal relationships.

    Advertising

    Most people tend to simplify being socially intelligent into merely being friendly or approachable. But the truth is, learning to develop and harness your social intelligence can spell the difference between seeming approachable and having the capacity to build secure connections, diffuse conflicts, and communicate long-term solutions.

    Social intelligence is the capacity to evaluate and influence other people’s emotions and relationships by knowing one’s self and others. It develops through time and experience with people concerning success and failure in social settings.

    Even more significantly, some social intelligence-based skills and methods will allow you to break the ice and strengthen trust in valuable relationships. (Check out What Socially Intelligent People Would Never Do)

    6 Essential Social Intelligence Skills

    Socially intelligent individuals tend to have an extensive, efficient network of social connections that they can rely on personally and professionally. This is because social intelligence comes with a set of powerful skills that you can use to build, maintain, and improve relationships.

    The following skills can help you identify key people, understand and pay attention to them, and smoothly resolve any conflict that comes up during different scenarios:

    1. Assessing Life Influencers

    As you go through life, you will meet and regularly interact with people who have a significant impact on your journey. They are your life influencers.

    Advertising

    To determine who they are, look for these three attributes:

    • Life influencer has a significant impact on your personal or professional growth. Your long-term success hinges heavily on a continued relationship with this individual.
    • The influencer cannot easily be replaced. Your time-tested relationship with this person has already yielded continuous positive effects on your life. You can identify who this influencer is by assessing the impact of past advice or interactions.
    • The relationship is mutual: you can identify what you need from the influencer and vice versa. Your goals and desired results are aligned with this person.

    2. Empathetic Listening

    Go beyond the surface level and try to understand the people you interact with, whether you’ve just met them or they are one of your life influencers. In other words, when they are communicating with you, you need to listen to what they mean and not just what they are saying.

    Your goal is empathy — the skill of understanding what other people feel. Focus not only on their message’s content but also on their tone and body language. By doing so, you will be able to figure out the meaning behind their words and what explains their feelings.

    One of the best ways to demonstrate empathy while engaging with others is by showing them that you are paying full attention to them via:

    1. Nonverbal signs include:

    • Constant eye contact (casual, not intense)
    • Keeping your feet and shoulders pointed to them
    • Keeping your arms open (if you are sitting)
    • Standing straight and not slouching (if you are standing)
    • Smiling, nodding, and using hand gestures at appropriate times
    • Duchenne smile, not fake smile (includes eyes in smiling)

    2. Non-interruptive verbal signs such as saying “uh-huh,” “ok,” “go on,” etc. at appropriate times

    Advertising

    3. Echoing and Mirroring

    Another way to show your undivided attention is by echoing and mirroring, which uses one or a combination of the following methods:

    • Rephrasing the essence of what your life influencer is saying with your own words every one to three minutes – If you do it right, the person you are talking to will be grateful for your attention. If you don’t, they will be thankful that you checked and will correct it.
    • Using their jargon – Notice specific words that the other person is using relevant to the issue and integrate them into your echoing.
    • Mirroring their tone and posture in broad terms – For example, if someone is speaking formally, do the same thing. If they’re leaning towards you, do so as well. Just pay attention to their body language and tone and try to match it, but don’t try to mirror everything quickly. When done correctly, it will help people feel connected to you and trust you.

    4. Building Rapport

    You can also convey how you understand the person you are interacting with by building rapport. You need to help them feel that you are on their side and that you are a part of their tribe. Without explicitly stating it, signal that you grasp their emotions, goals, incentives, values, and obstacles by doing any of the following:

    • Express compassion (sense of caring) towards their feelings.
    • Find points of commonality between your goals and values and theirs.
    • Convey implicitly that you get what their obstacles and incentives are.
    • Use humor to help bring down defenses while avoiding making fun of them or what they value or using sarcasm as it’s too often misunderstood. Instead, you can lightly make fun of yourself since you’re the safest target.
    • Remember that the most impactful humor feels spontaneous. However, you can build it in, and people will still appreciate it.

    5. Curious Questioning

    Injecting some genuine curiosity in your conversations will go a long way in expressing your sincere interest in your influencers’ needs and concerns. It will help facilitate effective knowledge-sharing and further refine your understanding.

    To do it correctly, try to envision what someone wants you to ask them. Express curiosity in your questions without coming off as probing or provocative. Keep in mind that many people may not want to reveal their emotions directly, so a practical approach is to throw an indirect question at them. For example, you can say, “If I were in this situation, I would feel _______. How about you?”

    You can also share a story about someone who felt an emotion that you think the other person is feeling in a similar situation and see how they respond.

    6. Conflict Mediation and Resolution

    Manage your feelings and then try to resolve the conflict through social intelligence. As a proactive measure, try to scan your relationships for signs of conflict. Don’t give in to the temptation of ignoring potential disputes in hopes of seeing them disappear because that’s when minor molehills turn into major mountains.

    Advertising

    Then, you may employ the following ideas during interactions:

    1. Remember that a great deal of conflict comes from misunderstanding other people’s emotions and focusing solely on the content of their message. When you start noticing growing tensions, check for misconceptions around both.
    2. Be diplomatic when checking for misunderstandings and treat the situation as a miscommunication on your part.((Business Insider: How to disagree with someone successfully and still effectively communicate
    [3] New Harbinger: The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships

    More by this author

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

    Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

    What Is Abstract Thinking And How To Develop It 8 Effective Ways To Make Hard Decisions Easier 8 Daily Habits To Develop Emotional Intelligence How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress How to Handle Pandemic Depression and Take Care of Yourself

    Trending in Brain Power

    1 What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It? 2 What Is Abstract Thinking And How To Develop It 3 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 4 Do Memory Supplements Work? 10 Supplements to Boost Brain Power 5 10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on April 28, 2021

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

    These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

    What is a Fixed Mindset?

    Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

    People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

    People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

    False Growth Mindset

    Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

    I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

    Advertising

    It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

    Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

    Fixed Mindset Triggers

    A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

    The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

    Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

    Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

    Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

    Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

    Advertising

    How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

    Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

    Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

    So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

    You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

    Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

    Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

    1. Do Not Blame

    If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

    2. Aim for Self-Awareness

    Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

    Advertising

    So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

    3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

    Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

    4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

    Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

    Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

    5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

    Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

    Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

    6. Reflect and Reassess

    Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

    7. Do Not Compare

    When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

    Advertising

    If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

    8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

    Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

    If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

    Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

    It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

    Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

    Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

    It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

    More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

    Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next