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Social Intelligence – Listening And Understanding Others

Social intelligence refers to how people attempt to make sense of the social world and to understand self and others. For example, knowing how to react when a close friend is crying, how to behave in a public place, etc. Socially intelligent people tend to be empathetic, thoughtful, understanding and aware. This concept was introduced by Edward Thorndike in 1920.

Social intelligence is crucial as it helps in building friendships and relationships, workplace associations and negotiations, develops self-awareness, encourages leadership abilities, improves communication, helps in managing emotions of self and others, etc.

The Specialties Of Socially Intelligent People

1. Listening:

Social intelligence includes good listening skills. It requires paying attention to and understanding the other person. The other person usually feels good after bonding with a socially intelligent individual as they feel heard, seen and understood.

2. Social Norms:

Social intelligence requires awareness of social norms and rules. Socially intelligent people follow these norms and can shift between various social roles as well.

For example, a socially intelligent individual uses appropriate humor with elders. He or she does not disrespect them or cross any boundaries.

3. Verbal Skills:

Social intelligence requires friendly conversation skills and fluency in interacting. Socially intelligent people can hold conversations with multiple people, are sincere, funny, and witty in their interactions and can form connections easily.

4. Impressing Others:

Social intelligence requires some amount of impression formation. Socially intelligent people can impress others with their charm and manner while also staying authentic to themselves.

They act or seem smart by using easy yet commendable vocabulary, using appropriate gestures and expressions and making polite conversation. This task is difficult but people who have a high amount of social intelligence can do it well.

5. Consideration:

Social intelligence requires considering other opinions and staying open to various perspectives. Socially intelligent people tend to listen and understand other points of view rather than arguing or rejecting them curtly. They also tend to remember details about other people which allows for deeper interaction.

People who are socially intelligent are also empathetic towards others. They can put themselves in others’ shoes and relate to their experiences. They are mindful and considerate about what they say.

For example, if someone is going through a divorce, a socially intelligent person would comfort them with kind words and let them know that they are there for them.

6. Capacity For Understanding:

Social intelligence requires understanding people and their emotions and thoughts. Socially intelligent people can interpret others’ emotions and act accordingly. This helps them in forming and maintaining connections.

For example, they notice when someone is shy or uncomfortable in a group and try to initiate a conversation with them to help them feel more comfortable.

7. Social Self-Efficacy:

Social intelligence requires people to be confident in various roles and situations. Socially intelligent people are confident in their skin and can effectively communicate in private and public interactions. Social Efficacy refers to an individual’s belief and confidence that he or she would be able to interact appropriately in social situations.

Social efficacy requires the ability to make friends, form and maintain relationships, be assertive and confident, interact in groups or at parties, ask for and being able to receive assistance. An important part of self-efficacy is being confident in knowing what to do in a social situation.

For example, a person with social efficacy arrives at a party and makes conversation with multiple people and leaves them with laughter and satisfaction.

How To Measure Social Intelligence

Social intelligence is not innate, or something inherited through genetics. It is something that an individual learns through experiences and practice. An individual can develop and change their social intelligence skills by working on those skills.

Like Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests, social intelligence scores also use a standard score approach which has a mean of one hundred. People with scores above 140 are high on social intelligence. Although, social intelligence tests do not follow a rigid, fixed model like IQ tests.

Social intelligence can be measured through validated questions and answers. It can also be measured through self-assessment questionnaires. Several validated scales such as The Tromso Social Intelligence Scale, George Washington University Social Intelligence Test, and Perceived Social Intelligence Scales measure social intelligence in various populations.

Social intelligence tests can also be used to assess diagnostic disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, ADHD, etc.

Tips To Develop Social Intelligence

  1. Paying attention to your environment, other people and stimuli could help in developing social intelligence. Observing other people and remembering details could go a long way.
  2. Working on active listening is also an important skill and requirement for social intelligence. Learn to listen to understand, not just respond. Active listening involves attending to the other person, listening, paraphrasing and asking relevant questions to help them express themselves more.
  3. Communication and conversation skills can also be worked on to develop social intelligence. Initiating and holding conversations are important skills that come under social intelligence. Practicing with close ones, joining different groups and observing people who have good social skills can help in this process.
  4. Honor differences in opinions, cultures, and perspectives. Staying open to different ideologies helps in connecting with diverse groups of people and opens your mind.
  5. Recognize and express appreciation towards the people who are close to you and are there for you in times of need. Appreciating others is a form of maintaining connection, which comes under social intelligence.
  6. Being curious about others goes a long way. Asking them questions about their life, achievements or feelings makes them feel heard and connected.
  7. Empathy is essential in forming connections. Being able to put yourself in others’ shoes and relate to them is key to social intelligence. It helps you and the other person communicate more deeply, making the bond stronger.
  8. Being authentic is an admirable quality. Being yourself and expressing your own opinions makes you stand out from others and other people perceive you as a confident personality.
  9. Be non-judgemental and non-critical while expressing honest opinions. People tend to like honest and humble individuals. Being non-judgemental also makes them feel that you are more approachable.
  10. A smile goes a long way in any interaction. Having a smiling face makes you seem approachable and warm. People are more likely to approach you when you are smiling rather than having a grumpy expression.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Social and emotional intelligence are associated with each other but are not the same concepts. Emotional intelligence focuses more on components related to self, such as self-awareness and regulation and management of one’s own emotions.

On the other hand, social intelligence is more inclined towards communicating with others and using listening skills to be there for the other person. Both intelligences are essential to develop and maintaining relationships, school, or work performance improvements, succeeding at work negotiations, taking up leadership opportunities and personal growth.

Research Evidence

Study By: Younis Illahi Bhat, Dr.Hemant Khandai

Aim: To study social intelligence, study habits and academic achievement of college students.


  • 410 college students participated in the study (193 males, 217 females). This population was from 4 different colleges.
  • They were asked to fill out a social intelligence scale (Chadha and Ganesan Social Intelligence Scale) and a study habits scale (Palsane and Sharma`s study habits inventory) to collect and assess data.


  • It was found that female students had better social intelligence scores as compared to male students.
  • No significant difference was found between males and females in study habits.
  • Additionally, it was found that female students had better academic achievement as compared to male students.
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Fatemah September 10, 2023, 12:47 am

    Thanks for an informative and well researched article

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