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Harness the power of social intelligence

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Nancy Nzalambi | March 28th 2021
Young people interacting. [Picture, Standard]

There are those people who effortlessly talk to everyone, no matter how different their backgrounds. Then some seem to offend everyone around them.

Have you ever wondered how some people with the right networks seem not to benefit from them? A lot of people do not possess social intelligence. They may be book smart, work diligently but they flop at maintaining relationships with their networks.

They may not be intentionally unsociable; they just lack social awareness. Human beings are naturally social and we cannot thrive in isolation. We are wired to connect and have the ability to optimise relationships.

Author Sofia Garcia-Bulle described social intelligence as the capacity to communicate and form relationships with empathy and assertiveness. It comes from self-actualisation and exercising proper emotional management.

In the age of digital transformation and automation, social intelligence is vital to create and maintain jobs only humans can do. It provides a cushion for the human workforce in times of remote working and increasing automation.

An individual with high social intelligence can interpret and comprehend their social environment to form long-lasting relationships with others. It is what we informally call being “street smart.”

There is no better time to learn social intelligence than this; since our social environment and relationships affect all aspects of our lives, at home and work. Relationships shape our experiences and influence our way of thinking.

Observe how you respond to strangers. Do you find people who make small talk in public places annoying? Are you the kind of person who enjoys some time alone with no disturbance?

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Learning how to be socially intelligent does not convert an introvert into an extrovert. It focuses more on understanding your responses so that you get less affected by other people’s annoyance. Additionally, we learn social skills from our surrounding.

Socially intelligent people acknowledge that other people may have been brought up differently, with different customs when they were growing up. Respecting cultural differences is one way to accommodate and co-exist with people whose norms seem different from yours.

Pay attention

Life coach Saeed Mirfattah says that attention is the currency of all relationships. Even though people are wired differently and the world is highly distracted, the mere act of being sensitive and paying attention to others is key in allowing people in and developing trust in them.

We also allow others to learn how we are and form meaningful relationships from such interactions.

Demonstrate competence in effective communication through verbal fluency and effortless articulation of ideas. Take cues of body language and maintain eye contact. Be empathetic to other people’s predicaments to show support. Such support is usually reciprocated.

Paying attention also helps to recognise people who have a sense of entitlement, and inflated personality, manipulative and impulsive individuals. You will know how to navigate relationships with them when you have learned their personalities and can predict their actions. Eventually, you will effectively avoid areas that are prone to a personality clash.

Mirfattah also advises on being extra gentle with people who are easily intimidated and be considerate enough to give explanations when you ignore input you solicited from colleagues.

Resolving conflict

Diverse opinions can bring conflict among acquaintances.

These conflicts can make or break relationships. Since conflicts are inevitable, our social setting is bound to experience diverse thoughts and opinions that will test our capability of accommodating what we do not agree with. Learn to give back when acts of kindness are extended to you, invest time and effort in maintaining your networks. Share the glory of a job well done.

Acknowledge the ones who helped you instead of taking all the credibility for a team’s effort.

Be authentic

Projecting a likeable image and seeking to appear well off has forced many of us to hide our genuine personalities behind masks and fake smiles. Even though managing your reputation takes a careful balance, you can still make a good impression while being true to yourself.

You can be tactful, humorous and sincere in your conversations while remembering details about your connections.

Such aspects make dialogue meaningful. If you are in leadership, you may become more approachable when you share your vulnerabilities. Exceptional leaders recognise mistakes and help their teams navigate tough times more effectively.

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