The social world can seem like a maze sometimes, where wrong moves lead to dead ends or trapdoors, but the right turn edges you closer to your goal. How does one navigate all this?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you tell when a person feels anxious?
  • What do you do when someone starts crying?
  • How can you prevent a fight from breaking out?

Social intelligence (SI) involves how we make sense of the people around us. SI requires a basic understanding of people and a set of skills for successful social interaction with others. It also describes a person’s interpersonal abilities.

Characteristics of Social Intelligence

A socially intelligent person (someone with high SI) displays strong social competencies and nourishing behaviours that make other people feel valued, trusted, and respected. High SI people are often amiable and affable, and they generally interact well with others. They are also able to get others to cooperate with them.

A quote on social intelligence

Why Is Social Intelligence Important?

An individual with low SI often displays unsociable behaviour, making other people feel frustrated, inadequate, and devalued. Often, a low SI person is not intentionally unsociable. Their behaviour is often due to a lack of social awareness and understanding of how their behaviour affects other people.

Recent brain research suggests that we are wired to connect to others. Our relationships shape our experiences and also influence our brains. People can “catch” emotions from one another via facial expressions, moods, and other subtle ways. The more strongly we are emotionally connected to the person we are interacting with, the stronger the impact on the brain.

Because of this interconnectedness, individuals with high SI have the power to build relationships and create positive feelings in the people they work and play with.

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People with high social intelligence generally interact well with others.

6 Ways to Develop Your Social Intelligence

Some people naturally have better social and communication skills than others. However, because social intelligence involves a basic understanding of human nature, plus a skill-set for how to successfully manage emotions and interact with people, you can improve your social intelligence with learning and practice. Some actions may be easier to adopt, while others may take more time and effort.

1. Create rapport

One of the most important SI skills is learning to connect well with people and relationship management. This includes making other people feel comfortable around you and feel like they are being listened to and understood.

  1. Show curiosity. Ask people questions that show interest in their lives but avoid being intrusive. For example, “Tell me more about your weight-loss programme” is better than “How much do you weigh now?”
  2. Listen actively without interrupting. People like to be heard. Allowing them to talk with minimal interruption lets others see you as caring, trustworthy, and likeable.
  3. Tune into other people’s needs. Try to understand what others are thinking and how they’re feeling about things.
  4. Develop empathy. Learn to be in “another person’s shoes.” When people sense your empathy, they connect with you better.

2. Be clear

Avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings by learning to express yourself clearly. If you’re not sure, ask.

3. Think before you speak or act

Ensuring that we take time to think before acting or speaking prevents us from acting impulsively, which may leave us with regrets later.

4. Be authentic

Most people appreciate an honest opinion expressed in a non-judgmental, non-critical way.

5. Avoid being judgmental

People are more likely to open up when they feel they will not be judged.

6. Understand the rules and norms of your society, community, or workplace

When you move to a new social environment (a new country, city or workplace), learn the rules and social norms for behaviour. It is helpful to become adaptable and to be open to new ideas and experiences.

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