There are many kinds of intelligence, and each one has its own special value. Some people are good at math, others can figure out how to design or build complex mechanisms. There are naturally talented dancers and musicians, especially effective speakers and writers, even people who are born teachers or humorists.
Scientists have identified at least eight or nine different kinds of intelligence, along with numerous combinations and variations on these fundamentals, any one of which can help you succeed in the world.
But the one that probably has the most value in the most situations is interpersonal intelligence, sometimes called “emotional intelligence.”
Describing Interpersonal Intelligence
Interpersonal intelligence is simply the ability to recognize emotions, and understand what they are telling you about each of the people around you. Just as most of us recognize and understand language, and can usually respond meaningfully to what another person is saying, in a given situation people with enough interpersonal intelligence can usually respond appropriately and effectively to what another person is feeling.
This kind of intelligence gives you important advantages in dealing with other people, including the abilities to:
- Help other people feel understood, important, and appreciated.
- Choose your own emotional response to the situation.
- Generate in another person a feeling of special rapport with you.
- Extract a deeper level of information from other people.
- Influence other people’s choices and actions.
Not surprisingly, people with high levels of interpersonal intelligence can often get along well with a wider range of people, and can also produce more successful outcomes – even in very difficult situations.
Here are some tips to help you increase your own level of interpersonal intelligence:
Build Your Self-Awareness – The best way to gauge what other people are feeling is to be aware of your own emotional state. This is because humans instinctively react to each other on an emotional level, a kind of give-and-take dance in which one person’s emotions triggers a fitting emotional response in others. By learning to recognize your own emotions in various situations throughout the day, you are honing the fundamental tool that’s going to provide a solid basis for you to recognize and understand what others are feeling, too.
Flow with Your Empathy – Empathy is the innate human ability to recognize and resonate with the feelings, thoughts, and desires of another person. Nearly everyone has some of this ability, but few of us cultivate it as thoroughly as we should. In addition to recognizing your own feelings in response to another person, a high level of empathy is important to interpersonal intelligence because it provides a probe into another person, a way to gather a more direct reading of their current emotional state.
Strengthen Your Self-Control – Many people live an emotional life without much self-control. They feel whatever they feel, usually without even recognizing the feeling, and they ricochet from one emotion to another like a bullet bouncing off walls made of rock. The interpersonally intelligent person, however, has more control over his or her own emotions. Faced with a given situation, this person can usually make a choice between a variety of emotional reactions. This gives them the potential to choose the one reaction that’s going to work best for them – and possibly for other people, as well.
Master the Social Skills – Interpersonal intelligence helps you recognize what’s going on in a given situation. But to translate that knowledge into effective action requires a toolbox of social skills. These skills include:
- A knowledge of socially acceptable values and behaviors.
- An orientation toward following defined procedures and achieving agreed-upon goals.
- The ability and willingness to comfortably converse, persuade, and cooperate with others.
- The flexibility to think and act effectively in a wide variety of situations, and
- An acceptance of imperfection and error in human relations.
You may be able to thrive and succeed without very much interpersonal intelligence, provided your work and your life are minimally dependent on the support, cooperation, and caring of other people. But we humans are hard-wired to be social creatures, for the most part, which is why the more interpersonal intelligence you can muster, generally speaking the better you will feel, work, and live.