Intelligence measured by IQ is largely born with you. Genetics plays an important role. Social intelligence (IS), on the other hand, is mostly learned. Social intelligence develops from the experience with people and learning from successes and failures in social environments. It is more commonly referred to as “touch”, “common sense”, or “smartness”.
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What are the key elements of social intelligence?
- Verbal fluency and conversational skills. You can easily find someone with a lot of social intelligence at a party or social gathering. The socially intelligent person can hold conversations with a wide variety of people, and is discreet and appropriate in what is said. Combined, these represent the “skills of social expressiveness.”
- Knowledge of social roles, rules and Scripts. Socially intelligent individuals learn to use different social roles. They are also well versed in the informal rules, or “norms” that govern social interaction. In other words, they “know how to play the game” of social interaction. As a result, they perform as socially sophisticated and smart.
- Effective listening skills. Socially intelligent people are great listeners. As a result, others may enjoy an interaction with a person with great social intelligence because there seems to be a good “connection” with them.
- Understand what other people think and feel. Great people watchers, individuals rich in social intelligence are attuned to what others are saying, and how they are behaving, in order to try to “read” what the other person is thinking or feeling. Understanding emotions is part of Emotional Intelligence. Social intelligence and emotional intelligence are correlated– people who are especially qualified are high on both.
- Role playingand social self-efficacy. The socially intelligent person knows how to play different social roles – allowing them to be comfortable with all types of people. As a result, the individual with social intelligence feels socially self-confident and effective – what psychologists call ” social self-efficacy “.
- Impression management skills. People with good social intelligence are concerned with the impression of what they are doing about others. They engage in what I call the “dangerous art of print management”, which is a delicate balance between managing and controlling the image they portray to others by being reasonably “authentic” and letting others see their true selves. This is perhaps the most complex element of social intelligence.
How to develop social intelligence?
It takes a lot of effort and hard work to develop social intelligence . Start paying more attention to the social world around you. Work to become a better speaker or conversationalist. Networking, or speaking in groups, is good at helping to develop basic communication skills. Work on becoming a more effective listener, through what is called “active listening”, where you reflect back what you believe the speaker said, in order to ensure clear understanding. Most importantly, study social situations and your own behavior. Learn from your social successes and failures.