First there was the standard category of intelligence (IQ) and then there was emotional intelligence (EQ/EI). Now, just when you thought it was safe to move along your personal and professional development path, comes another intelligence to think about – Social Intelligence (SI). Yes, another one of the multiple intelligences humans exhibit put forward by Howard Gardner of Harvard University is being noticed and promoted by corporate America.
Social Intelligence (SI) is the ability to get along with others and the ability to get them to cooperate with you. With lean and flat organizations loading up their employees with more and more responsibilities, individuals need to know how to get things done with and through others without too much turmoil. Just like playing well in the sandbox when you were a kid, being able to build great relationships and promote collaboration will get you rewards. According to Karl Albrecht, if you have high SI, you’re able to make your coworkers feel valued, respected, and capable. If you practice low SI, your coworkers may feel devalued or frustrated with you. Bottom line is the better you are able to build trusting relationships and influence your colleagues, the more effective you will be.
The great news is that your SI level can be improved. Your “people skills” include an ability to assess the situation, understand the social dynamics involved and choose a proven approach to dealing with others and achieving your objectives. You also have a sense of how you respond in particular situations based on your perceptions and history in such situations – self-awareness. Why does the guy with the huge ego always annoy you and bring out the worst in you? The assumption is that you can learn to “get along” with him and others by being aware of your reflex response to unabashed self-promoters, trying different ways to lower the annoyance factor, and eventually learning how to interact with him such that you achieve what you wanted. In other words, you’re building and flexing your SI muscles. Improving your social intelligence level can help you be more successful in life… think about it!
LaBarre Spence is associate director of Graduate Business Career Services in the Opus College of Business.