The first thing that we often think about when the word “intelligence” is brought up is the acumen for subjects like math, reading comprehension, problem-solving, and other academic focuses. But intelligence doesn’t begin and end in the classroom.
Some of the most intelligent or successful people on Earth, as well as some of the most compassionate, also focus heavily on their social intelligence.
A social intelligence quotient is harder to objectively value than IQ or smarts in the traditional sense, but it’s an important skill that can better your life. This skill is present in education, business, healthcare, science, and any other field because how we interact with others is a daily process that is dynamic. If you want to improve your social intelligence, here are some useful ways to do it.
Research social-emotional learning curriculums
While there is no objective measure of a skilled and socially-adept person, there has been some significant headway in the field over the last decade. In particular, the development of SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and the subsequent curriculum that can educate people on social intelligence.
If you look at Positive Action, you can see that social intelligence is predicated on very fundamental rules of socialization and emotional self-awareness learning. Things like conflict resolution, sympathy/empathy drives, and the development of social awareness are among some of the important factors that make SEL a useful resource for improving your social intelligence.
Be more observant of your surroundings
People who are often considered good at the practice of social intelligence and use the skill well are very observant of their surroundings. Understanding the context of the situational conversation and interpersonal communication is a cornerstone of being able to either express yourself in more fluid ways or process information from others well.
Observe group dynamics, social events, how people are interacting, and other factors of your environment to generate a more complex understanding of your relationship with others in social settings. This skill will help you adapt and become what is often referred to as a social butterfly, but also use the social skills in introspective ways as well.
Pay attention to body language
In addition to understanding your surroundings, the way to improve your social intelligence is also founded on your ability to pick up on non-verbal cues. If you’ve ever been on a date and they crossed their arms or stiffened their posture, this is a sign of either defense or defiance, either is a telltale example of how using the body can emote information.
Understanding when you are improving the conversation (listener opens up their body more, is receptive through engaging physically) or weakening it (defensive body poster, avoidance) will help you learn to pivot from topics or focus on conversational dialogue that is beneficial to the engagement.
Use active listening
There are two types of listening: active and passive. Active is one you should be striving for, which means more than just absorbing information, but rather processing it and making the speaker see and understand that you are closely following along to what they are staying.
Passive listening is still very important as it helps develop your abilities as a multitasker, but during one on one conversation, such as a date or job interview, it is incredibly important to make people feel listened to and appreciated.
Cultivate deeper relationships
Base level relationships are everywhere. You don’t need to invest an extended amount of time or energy in an interaction with a cashier because it is a friendly exchange of services, but when you run into an old friend, it’s important to demonstrate social intelligence in handling the interaction with more than surface-level dialogue (small talk).
This is especially relevant for maintaining close relationships, romantic or platonic, as people need to feel appreciated, like the point on active listening. Ask questions that open up more lines of dialogue and help you build better communicative bridges to cultivate deeper relationships with people you value.
Get outside of your social comfort zone
Nothing grows in the comfort zone. You won’t master woodworking by building the same chair 1000 times, and you won’t improve your social intelligence by staying in your comfort zone either. Put yourself into (reasonably) uncomfortable situations that will force your social ability to adapt. Join groups where you don’t know anyone, strike up a conversation at a bar, and do things that will make you learn to use these skills in applicable ways, rather than in just a theoretical sense.
Becoming a more well-rounded and intelligent person is not just about your interest in academic subjects, it has a lot to do with your social abilities. Learning how to improve your social intelligence will allow you to experience much more in your personal life and is a foundational skill for any person to develop.