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How not to hate people you work with?

Intelligence, or IQ, is largely what you are born with and genetics play a large part in it. Social intelligence (SI), on the other hand, is mostly learned. Besides Social intelligence it is important to mention that we also have Emotional Intelligence (EI) but in this part we will work mostly on Social Intelligence. SI can be described as a combination of abilities: the first is a basic understanding of people and the second is the skills needed for interacting successfully with them.

People with high social intelligence are often said to have “nourishing behaviours” which make others around them feel valued, loved, respected and appreciated. These people are very appealing to others. On the other hand, people low in social intelligence are often described as “toxic” – they cause others to feel angry, devalued, frustrated, inadequate or guilty. Sometimes, they are often so preoccupied with personal stresses that they fail to see the impact of their behaviour on others. Social intelligence is a person’s ability to interact well with others. It is a usually learned ability involving situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and a decent amount of self-awareness. There are four contributing aspects of social intelligence defined by researchers:

  1. Communication Skills

These involve the ability of a person to listen well, understand the words and emotional content of what they hear, speak well with others, express their thoughts and emotions clearly, and use tact when speaking with others.

  1. Social Roles and Rules

These involve knowing the different, usually unspoken, rules of various types of interactions and situations as well as how to play an appropriate role in a variety of interactions.

  1. Understanding the Motivation of Others

This involves reading the subtext of a conversation and understanding why a person is saying something or behaving in such a manner.

  1. Impression Management

This skill involves understanding the reaction of others to you and behaving in a way to make the impression you want.

While some of us are naturally blessed with superior social skills, others may need to work harder at them. The good news is that many believe social intelligence can be improved upon. Building strong social relationships is worth the effort because: strong relationships improve our immune system and help combat disease, loneliness as a very common phenomenon of today’s society and weak relationships are one of the major sources of stress, health problems and depression, our relationships affect every area of our lives–from colleagues to spouses to friends to kids. Therefore it is important to work on your social intelligence to improve not just ourselves, our skills, but also our social lives.

Social Intelligence is something you can be born with or you can simply learn.  Dr. David Goleman, internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses, known as an author and science journalist.

Anyway, Dr. Goleman offers 9 ways how we can improve our social intelligence.

  1. The Protoconversation

As we speak, our brains are taking in microexpressions, voice intonations, gestures and pheromones. People who have high SI have a greater awareness of their protoconversations.

  1. Your Social Triggers

Let’s start with your social awareness. People and places trigger different emotions and this affects our ability to connect. Think about a time you felt excited and energized by an interaction. Now think of a time when you felt drained and defeated after an interaction. Goleman presents a theory on how our brain processes social interactions:

The Low Road is our instinctual, emotion-based way we process interactions. It’s how we read body-language, facial expressions and then formulate gut feelings about people.

The High Road is our logical, critical thinking part of an interaction. We use the high road to communicate, tell stories and make connections.

Why are these important? The Low Road guides our gut feelings and instincts. For example, while our High Road tells us that we are a grown up and things have changed, but our Low Road still gives us social anxiety. These are social triggers. We should be aware of our unconscious social triggers to help us make relationship decisions. Knowing ours Low Road social triggers helps ours High Road function. Here’s how we can identify ours:

What kinds of social interactions do you dread?

Who do you feel anxious hanging out with?

When do you feel you can’t be yourself?

  1. Your Secure Base

Whether you are a cheerful extrovert or a quiet introvert, everyone needs space and a place to recharge. Goleman suggests a “secure base.” This is a place, ritual or activity that helps us process emotions and occurrences. A secure base is helpful for two main reasons. First, it gives us a place to recharge before interactions so we don’t get burnt out. Second, it helps us process and learn from each social encounter. After a business pitch, coffee meeting, party or date do you set aside time to reflect and review what went right and wrong?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself in order to reflect the social interaction you just had:

What went well?

What went wrong?

What would I have done differently?

What did I learn from this interaction?

  1. Broken Bonds

One of the biggest pitfalls/traps in social intelligence is a lack of empathy. Goleman calls these Broken Bonds. Philosopher Martin Buber coined the idea of the “I-It” connection which happens when one person treats another like an object as opposed to a human being. Here are a couple of examples he gives:

“Imagine you have just lost a family member. You get a phone call from a friend offering condolences. Immediately you sense the obligation of the caller. They are distracted, you can hear the typing of keys in the background. Their wishes are cold, memorized and insincere. The call makes you feel worse not better.


This interaction makes you feel like an ‘it’ –a to do list item, a ‘should,’ an obligation. Another word for this would be cold-hearted. I had a friend who emailed me every 60 days to grab lunch. Her emails were so similar that I realized I was a calendar alert that she had set-up! I was merely an item on her to do list–she felt she ‘should’ do lunch to keep in touch and our lunches were perfunctory, predictable and boring. I stopped saying yes.”

Here are some tips for you:

  • Don’t interact because you feel that you ‘should.’
  • Say no to obligations if you can.
  • Interact with empathy or don’t interact at all.
  1. Positively Infectious

When someone smiles at us, it’s hard not to smile back. The same goes for other facial expressions. When our friend is sad and begins to tear up, our own eyes will often get moist. Why? These are our mirror neurons in action–part of our Low Road response to people. The scowl and our brain unconsciously copies it making us feel depressed along with Debbie.

Here is what you should strive to do:

  • Hang out with people whose moods you want to catch.
  • If moods are catching, gravitate towards people who will infect you with the good ones!
  1. Adopt to Adapt

Our Low Road automatically mirrors the people around us. This is how empathy works. Our brain copies the people around us so we feel as they feel. This in turn helps us understand them, where they are coming from and even be better at predicting their reactions.

“Many paths of the low road run through mirror neurons. The neurons activate in a person based on something that is experienced by another person in the same way is experienced by the person themself. Whether pain (or pleasure) is anticipated or seen in another, the same neuron is activated.”, according to Goleman.

Sometimes our High Road gets in the way. For example, if our partner is angry at something we try to stay calm. Then we try to calm them down. Usually this makes it worse. The upset person feels you ‘don’t really understand’ or you ‘don’t get them.’ Why? Because you are fighting your instinct to mirror their upset. Sometimes you should let yourself adopt their emotions. Put yourself exactly where they are. This might give you a new glimpse into their perspective and helps them see that you are on the same page as them.

  1. Beware the Dark Triad

Goleman identifies the dark triad of people as the narcissistic personality, the Machiavellian personality and the psychopath or antisocial personality. The narcissistic personality is when someone has an inflated view of themselves, a huge ego and a sense of entitlement. The Machiavellian personality is when someone is manipulative and consistently exploits the people around them. The psychopath personality is someone who is impulsive, remorselessness and extremely selfish.

Goleman summarizes the dark triad motto as: -Others exist to adore me.

  1. Mindblind

Can you usually guess what someone is about to say? Are you good at predicting people’s behavior? Do you think you are intuitive? If you answered yes to these questions you probably have high mindsight–and high social awareness. If you answered no to these questions you might fall on the “mindblind” side of the spectrum. Mindblind is the inability to sense what is happening in the mind of someone else. The key to mindsight is compassion.

“In short, self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Goleman

Goleman argues that we are wired for altruism. We are inherently good. However, sometimes we forget how good it makes us feel to be good.

  1. A People Prescription

“The most striking finding on relationships and physical health is that socially integrated people, those who are married, have close family and friends, belong to social and religious groups, and participate widely in these networks, recover more quickly from disease and live longer. Roughly eighteen studies show a strong connection between social connectivity and mortality.” – Goleman, 247

Friends make you healthy.

Goleman’s prescription for a long, healthy happy life is positive relationships. Our partner, our friends, our colleagues our kids, they support our soul as well as our immune system. Goleman shares studies that have found that kinds words, physical touch, a song from childhood improve the vital signs of the sick and even fatally ill.

Investing in your relationships is worth the effort.