What is Social Intelligence & How Does it Relate to Emotional Intelligence?

Image result for social intelligenceArticle contributed by Laura Belsten.

We receive frequent requests for coaching  Social Intelligence as an add-on to our coaching Emotional Intelligence.

We all know people who seem to lack awareness and finesse in social situations, whether at work, home or in communities.

I’m reminded of one client who had been planning her wedding (out of state) for many months, and because of the crunch at work was only planning to take a short time off – from Wednesday at noon, returning to work Monday morning.  Her socially-inept boss, when reminded that the employee would be leaving at noon on Wednesday for her wedding, became extremely agitated and impatient, and practically screamed, “well okay, if you have to, but don’t let it happen again!”

Two books, both entitled “Social Intelligence,” delve into the concept of “social intelligence” and how it relates to “emotional intelligence.”  One was written by Daniel Goleman and the other by Karl Albrecht.

It may be of interest to note that the term social intelligence was first used in 1920 by psychologist Edward Thorndike who defined it as “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls – to act wisely in human relations.”

The term has evolved over the years to mean “the ability to get along with people in general, social technique or ease in society, knowledge of social matters, susceptibility to stimuli from other members of a group, as well as insight into the temporary moods or underlying personality traits of strangers” (Moss & Hunt, 1927, Vernon, 1933).

Today, Dr. Goleman defines social intelligence as “being intelligent not just about our relationships but also in them.”   Dr. Albrecht refers to social intelligence as “the ability to get along well with others and get them to cooperate with you.”

I tend to prefer Goleman’s definition.  Albrecht’s feels a little manipulative to me.

It’s almost as if defining social intelligence in terms of getting others to cooperate with us offers no distinction between the shallow attempts of a con man and the genuinely caring acts that enrich healthy relationships.

Goleman’s definition is a little more broad, enabling us to look beyond narrow self interests to the best interests of others as well.

The good news is that the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP) measures both social and emotional intelligence.  Both the “self-management” and  “relationship management” quadrants are all about social intelligence.

In essence, you could say that EI is the internal part – our self-awareness and the skillful deployment of our own emotional responses, while social intelligence is more about the external part – the skillful use of externally-oriented, socially-competent responses.  They go hand-in-hand.

Allow me to provide an example.   Consider someone who is painfully shy.  Some might say being shy is the result of low self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, or feelings of low-self worth.

A person can learn new behaviors to act more confidently in new situations and with others (particularly with the support of a good coach!).   So, for example, the person can learn new behaviors related to speaking up, making eye contact, using a stronger voice, taking up more space in the room, standing up for their opinions, etc.

But overcoming shyness also requires inner work, taking a look at and refuting the negative self-talk, revising their inner self-estimate, re-owning their right to a place on the planet, acknowledging their self-worth, regaining self-confidence, and stepping into and claiming their own personal power.

This inner work has to do with our emotional intelligence, with learning new or different emotional responses.  The outer work has to do with social intelligence, learning and applying new behaviors in social situations.   Both EI and SI are necessary.  They go hand-in-hand.

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