What Is Social Intelligence?

Social intelligence makes us better people by improving the way we relate to others. It can be easily learned and cultivated. Learn more!
What Is Social Intelligence?

Last update: 22 March, 2023

The concept of social intelligence was first suggested by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920. His theory positioned this concept as a promising tool, as well as useful for daily and professional life, even for business. However, with the appearance of IQ, his approach was relegated.

Social intelligence should be used, for the most part, by leaders who are interested in improving their performance, social interaction, and interpersonal relationships. Doing this requires first understanding other concepts such as empathy, social astuteness, and organizational intelligence.

It also requires the development of skills such as presence, authenticity, and clarity. Gardner points out that, in fact, it’s normal for all of us to be more attracted to socially intelligent people. This, with the idea of establishing similar behavior patterns in order to improve as social people.

What is social intelligence?

Two co-workers with social intelligence.
Social intelligence is very important at work.

The word intelligence has generally been associated with the ability of people to solve problems successfully. To measure how smart a person can be in education, IQ is often measured.

However, this is a term that goes beyond this context and can be linked to the way a person can act in society, for example.

Precisely, social intelligence then has to do with the ability that a person has to relate to others. And if the person with whom you intend to relate is going through a bad time, an intelligently social person can’t ignore this situation.

It’s for this reason that one of the most important and fundamental pillars of social intelligence is empathy. This is because it seeks to guide people to seek the satisfaction of social needs. To these are added those that involve work and academic aspects, health, housing, transportation, security, and justice.

In the same way, in order to be a socially intelligent and empathic person, you need to be aware of your own social status.

Why is it important in interpersonal relationships?

Social intelligence is a determining factor when interacting with other people and producing bonds. This type of intelligence is the basis of any relationship (with family, friends, co-workers, or romantic partners). It allows these to be maintained and to evolve in a positive way.

When a person learns social intelligence and put it into practice, they improve as a person. In fact, research explains that with the practice of social intelligence, we learn to manage our moods, as well as our biology, by understanding how it influences others.

In conclusion, this clear and practical sense of empathy leads us to acquire skills and competencies to generate comfort in the people around us.

The characteristics of social intelligence

People with social intelligence, as we’ve already pointed out, have very specific characteristics. But are these characteristics visible to anyone? How do I know if I’m a socially intelligent person?

Well, there are other characteristics that are easy to identify in the behaviors of someone who knows how to handle social intelligence very well. If you’re one of these people, then you know that:

  • You motivate others to be socially intelligent.
  • You positively guide the behaviors of other people.
  • You’re attentive to how your behaviors influence others.
  • You always have a cooperative attitude.
  • You have a sense of belonging to a group or organization.
  • You have a high tolerance for conflict.
  • You feel what others are feeling and you try to help them overcome their difficulties.
  • You expose your thoughts and feelings honestly, trying not to hurt others.

Social intelligence in the workplace

As we mentioned, being socially intelligent comes in handy in all aspects of life. But we’ll focus on defining its impact on the work environment, a space in which relationships with others are essential.

Social intelligence at work offers people the ability to work in-depth on the way they relate to their co-workers. It seeks the development of individual skills that allow you to maintain assertive and affective communication through empathy.

To achieve this, you need to know yourself and find the right way to address others. For this reason, it’s very useful to do a self-examination to evaluate this behavior. The idea is to improve in the aspects in which you’re not being socially intelligent.

How do companies benefit from social intelligence?

Social intelligence is a useful tool for entrepreneurs and future managers, not only on an individual level but also on a corporate and senior management level.

Seen from the point of view of the owner or manager of the company, this term invites them to take responsibility and take into account the social implications that their company and its advertising forms may have, for example.

Furthermore, when an organization has social intelligence as one of its pillars, it’s capable of satisfying internal and external needs.

Among the benefits you get from social intelligence are:

  • Quality human talent: Internally, it ensures that it has a quality staff, develops employee commitment to the institution, and reduces staff turnover and job burnout. It contributes to improving the work environment.
  • Attracts more customers: The way it treats and understands the dynamics of customers produces positive word-of-mouth. In this way, it establishes itself as an attractive company that will easily capture the attention of potential customers.
  • Finance: At present, the origin of products and services is very important, referring to the way in which they’re created and sold. Getting people’s recognition for the way employees are treated attracts customers, thereby increasing sales.

How can you improve your social intelligence?

A man encouraging a co-worker during a meeting.
Training empathy is essential.

As in every type of intelligence, in social intelligence, it’s important to cultivate constant learning. Therefore, if you seek to improve this ability, there are some tips to follow that, with constant practice, will make you increasingly be better in this area:

  • Pay attention to the social world around you.
  • Identify your social role and that of the people around you.
  • Improve your conversation skills.
  • Actively listen to people.
  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of others: Be empathetic.
  • When someone talks to you, look them in the eye and pay attention.
  • Be honest and don’t hide your intentions from people.
  • Practice dialoguing with people so that they understand your point of view.
  • Learn from your mistakes and don’t be discouraged when you make them. Seek to solve them or redeem yourself.
  • Learn and be proud of your social achievements.

Enjoy your social intelligence!

The main key to social intelligence is understanding others. Although it seems complex, this is a skill that can make us better individuals. So, enjoying it is the key.

When you’re socially intelligent, something happens: You feel better about yourself. And this personal recognition is what drives you to continue behaving in this way. Many times, we want to improve our environment and be an active part of something, but we can’t figure out how to do it. Being aware of the impact of our way of communicating, listening, or offering aid can lead us in the right direction.

  • Albrecht, K. (2006). Inteligencia social. Barcelona: Vergara.
  • Maryoris E. Zapata-Zabala, Martha C. Álvarez-Uribe, Daniel C. Aguirre-Acevedo, Martha A. Cadavid-Castro. Coeficiente intelectual y factores asociados en niñoz escolarizados en la ciudad de Medellín, Colombia. Rev. salud pública. 14 (4): 543-557, 2012. Disponible en: http://www.scielo.org.co/pdf/rsap/v14n4/v14n4a01.pdf
  • Goleman, D. (2010). Inteligencia social: la nueva ciencia de las relaciones humanas. Editorial Kairós.
  • Gilar-Corbi, R., Miñano, P., & Castejón, J. L. (2008). Inteligencia emocional y empatía: su influencia en la competencia social en Educación Secundaria Obligatoria.
  • Mercadé, A. (2019). Los 8 tipos de inteligencia según Howard Gardner: la teoría de las inteligencias múltiples
  • Chaves Castaño, Liliana. (2011). La inteligencia social y sus implicaciones en la evolución de la mente. Revista de Psicología Universidad de Antioquia, 3(1), 73-86. Recuperado em 18 de abril de 2021, de http://pepsic.bvsalud.org/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2145-48922011000100006&lng=pt&tlng=es.
  • Yenny Astrid Cuervo Moreno. Inteligencia social en posiciones de alta gerencia. Universidad Militar Nueva Granada. 2020. Disponible en: https://repository.unimilitar.edu.co/bitstream/handle/10654/36014/Cuervo%20Moreno%20Yenny%20Astrid%202020.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.