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.

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