So WHAT is Social Intelligence Anyway?

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So WHAT is Social Intelligence Anyway?

Social Intelligence isn’t about our social lives or our social media savvy. And it’s not an intelligence score like IQ.  Social Intelligence is our ability to understand and manage our behavior even on days when our emotions or thoughts may be a little off center. It’s also about understanding how others think, feel and act so we can manage how to most effectively respond.

See, we are all creatures of habit, influenced by biases and preferences, and we express emotions, ideas and behaviors in the world that are different from one another. And that’s good. Differences in perspective are what make us human. Social Intelligence (let’s call it “SIQ”) doesn’t include a prescribed set of thoughts, emotions or behaviors that everyone has to follow to be successful. There isn’t a specific metric, behavior set or convergence of thoughts and emotions that when combined create a nirvana-state of SIQ. However, there is an overall approach that we can utilize to be more successful interacting with one another despite our differences, and it includes awareness of our mindset and adaptability, our emotional intelligence and our style of behavior.

How we think, feel and act impacts ourselves and the people around us in positive or negative ways. Because when many people are thinking, feeling and interacting together within a team or organization, our individual and collective Social Intelligence has the potential to make or break a company’s success.

Social Intelligence is Business Intelligent


At the individual level, understanding how our emotions, biases and thoughts impact our behavior – and how our behavior can impact our thoughts and emotions – helps us to become more mindful and intentional in how we act and interact with the people around us. This awareness and shift in behavior can make the difference between creating some so-so connections and creation of high-performing relationships and networks. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a lot of connections – it’s not about a score – it’s about the quality of each connection we have with one another, and how intentional, impactful and productive these relationships can be in our personal and professional lives.


Multiply this to an organization level, and now we are talking about groups of people acting and interacting with one another at an optimal level when the collective of individuals are each working to elevate their social intelligence. This awareness and shift in team behavior can make a significant difference in the overall performance of a company.  Building the organization of the future was listed as the single most important human capital challenge in the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Study.

This was ahead of challenges such as talent acquisition, leadership, digital HR and technology/automation.  Yet only 11 percent of survey respondents believe they understand how to build the organization of the future.

In today’s workforce, building relationships, effective communication and leadership performance capabilities are often referred to as “soft skills”, but there is nothing soft about the impact (or lack of) these skills can have on the success or decline of a company.  People are increasingly the most significant and important factor in how a company performs, especially over the long term. While a great idea or cutting-edge product can initially set an organization apart, the ability to lead effectively, manage team projects, adapt to cultures and diversity, and execute customer-centric communication approaches quickly become the factors that make or break a company over the long term. Social Intelligence is not just an essential for individual success, it’s essential for the collective success of people in organizations as well.

Social Intelligence is all about what happens when our mindset, our emotions and our behavior collide to make us who we appear to be. Yes, that’s right, “who we APPEAR to be”, because true Social Intelligence includes an awareness of how others view us, not just how we view ourselves. Social Intelligence is also about who we are at birth (our genetic predisposition) and who we become with years of influences and biases inflicted upon us; but even these predispositions can be adapted. While many attributes of our persona are genetically defined, many more are adaptable with training. So, an essential aspect of Social Intelligence is that it can be improved.

Mindset, Emotional Intelligence and Behavioral Style – TRACOM’s trifecta of Social Intelligence – are another way to describe the balance between thoughts, emotions and actions in easier to understand terms. Break it down even further, and we need to balance how we think, feel and act to become socially intelligent. And while that definition is simple, the approach to achieving social intelligence can seem more complex. Controlling one’s emotions sounds great, until you have an encounter or experience that feels out of control or too big to process. And controlling the way we think… well if that was easier there wouldn’t be such a wide range of opinions and perspectives in the world. And behavior… obviously it’s just not that easy or we’d all already be on our best behavior. One listen to the news confirms this isn’t the case.

But we can improve, and improve significantly to achieve high-performing results as individuals and collectively as organizations. When people invest time and energy in self-improvement practices, and company invest in collective improvement practices. Elevating Social Intelligence helps people achieve higher levels of performance and more optimal, intentional outcomes.

Now that we know what Social Intelligence means, let’s learn how to elevate it; Read next: TRACOM’s Social Intelligence Trifecta – The Alignment of Mindset, Emotion and Behavior in Achieving Success

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