How many interactions with another human being have you had today?
Even if you have been isolated from any physical contact just by reading this you are interacting, to a degree, with me!
You communicate with others in many different ways every day and, to maximise the success of those communications Social Intelligence is a crucial ingredient.
So what is Social Intelligence?
The fantastic Daniel Goleman states, “The ingredients of social intelligence as I see it can be organized into two broad categories: social awareness, what we sense about others—and social facility, what we then do with that awareness” (Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships 2006).
And Karl Albrecht says Social Intelligence “is the ability to get along well with others, and to get them to cooperate with you” (https://www.karlalbrecht.com/siprofile/siprofiletheory.htm)
Both of these definitions give us an insight into Social Intelligence and why it is important that we understand and apply Social Intelligence in our daily lives.
Firstly there is the need to have a sense of other people. How easy is it to get lost in your own world and not really take much notice of the people around you, think about a time when you were so intensely involved in a project that it was only that on your mind when a colleague spoke to you and you barely registered what they said, or, to flip it around, how do you feel when you are trying to talk to someone when it is quite clear their mind is elsewhere?
In this fast-paced, high-tech, digital world it is so easy for us to become distracted from interpersonal contact and our sense of others around us. Take a look around your local coffee shop and count how many people are more focused on their mobile devices than with the people they are sitting with?
So the first thing to do in order to develop and hone your Social Intelligence is to begin to become more aware of those you are interacting with. By simply giving someone your full attention you make them feel that you are interested in them and you are able to get feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, from them that allows you to adjust your message appropriately.
When we can develop our social awareness we can then move toward facility – what we do with that awareness, and get people to cooperate with us. Successful cooperation is a situation where both parties get what they want, a win-win outcome.
I have known plenty of salespeople whose sole aim is to get their customers to buy something and they will use every weapon in their arsenal to get that sale. However sometimes even though they get a sale at that point, overall they have lost out because they have probably put the customer off coming back again. The good salesman achieves that sale by using Social Intelligence and being aware of what the customer really wants, facilitating the customer’s choice and has a customer who leaves happy with what they have purchased and happy with the service they received, increasing the likelihood that the customer will return in the future.
Similarly the good manager will use their social awareness during interviews and supervisory meetings with employees and ensure that there is a win-win situation where the manager gets the employee to understand what the business needs of them and the employee leaves enthused to achieve that.
This is a simplistic overview of Social Intelligence, but Social Intelligence is a crucial part of success in human interaction that achieves long term success both in business and personal life.