The Alluring Grace of Social Intelligence

Why It Really Matters

I have sometimes wondered why a few otherwise smart, intelligent individuals are oftentimes prone to make insensitive, callous and sometimes toxic statements.  I also notice that these same individuals have much difficulty communicating in a pleasant manner with others in a group or club. They tend to be unnecessarily brash, sometimes crude and unfeeling in certain situations.

Some ninety-six years ago, Edward Thorndike defined social intelligence as the ability to understand and manage men, women and girls and to act wisely in human relations. Why were boys not included in this definition? That remains a mystery. It is also equivalent to interpersonal intelligence.

Another way of looking at social intelligence is like this: ‘ Social intelligence is the capacity to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments.’

Social Intelligence Defines Us

Ross Honeywill believes social intelligence is: ‘ An aggregated measure of self and social awareness, evolved social beliefs and attitudes and a capacity and appetite to manage complex social challenges.’

Now that is quite a challenge in itself.

And quite tellingly psychologist Nicholas Humphrey believes it is social intelligence, rather than quantitative intelligence, that defines us as human beings!

We need to pause for a while and cogitate deeply on that bold statement to really understand its full meaning and context.

Social intelligence, on the other hand, is mostly learned.

Developed from Experience

Permit me at this stage to elucidate.

According to experts, intelligence or IQ is largely what you are born with. Social intelligence, on the other hand, is mostly learned. It is developed from experience. For social intelligence to manifest in tangible forms, one must be willing and eager to learn as we go along in life.

For far too often, some individuals have remained closed to the process of keenly observing, learning and then internalising what they have learned. However, this is a ‘must do’ activity throughout our lives if we are to progress as decent, caring and concerned human beings.

In professional circles, they talk about this by emphasising the regular need for continuing professional development or education………CPD or CPE for short. As such, professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants for instance, regularly update their professional tool kit to stay abreast of changes in their field or of legislation.

These professionals from the established professions as well as professionals from newly emerging professions like IT, marketing and communications make it a point to stay up to date.

Age with Joy and Finish with Grace

A well known American, Christian philosopher and educator, Dr George Sweeting, in his best-selling book, ‘ The Joys of Successfully Aging ‘ said: ‘ You can age with joy and finish with grace.’

To age with joy and finish with grace, we have to first make that commitment.

Now, that is certainly a great and wonderful way of living and ending our lives here on mother earth.

To age with joy and finish with grace, we have to first make that commitment. And make it with all sincerity. In doing so, one will find that it is incumbent on us to develop, nurture and sustain a degree of social intelligence. This is so necessary if we are to integrate well and harmoniously in the family, the work environment and in society at large.

A 17th Century Nun’s Prayer

I am reminded, from time to time, of this beautifully expressed prayer that a 17th-century nun used to say in order to keep her herself truly grounded at all times. The prayer goes like this:

“Lord, keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.”

This is just part of that nun’s lengthy prayer. It goes to show that she had indeed developed a keen sense of social intelligence.

If we reflect carefully and honestly on the gist of the nun’s prayer, we will be certain to remember some occasions when silence would have been golden!

On a few occasions, some people remark that we are being sensitive when we object to some rude and personal remarks made in front of many others.  They conveniently ‘choose to forget’ and ought to be reminded, there and then, that in reality, it is these individuals who are being insensitive!

Why Individuals Stay Away

Sometimes, a few individuals choose to resign from their jobs because of unpleasant characters in the office or because of the toxic work environment. At other times, some individuals stay away from meetings at the club house or neighbourhood associations because of a few pompous, highly opinionated and egotistical personalities who ride roughshod over the feelings of more docile, gentle and refined individuals.

Yes, these are outwardly successful and intelligent individuals… but they are not ones with any degree of social intelligence. Had they taken the trouble to develop this aspect of their personal tool kit, they would not be so despised within the club or association. They are, however, the last to know how they stand within the club or association!

Lose Their Bearings as Decent Human Beings

Rank, titles, wealth and honours have gone to their heads and they seem to have lost their bearings as decent human beings. Some of these individuals seem to demand special treatment when they talk to the staff of the club or association. They make arrogant statements like: Do you know who I am? Just because they have ‘forgotten’ who they are, they take it out on others!

They also talk rudely and occasionally shout at these poor, defenceless individuals! Where is the milk of human kindness in these individuals? There is not one iota of social intelligence in these miserable individuals!

It pays, therefore, for all of us to make an effort on a regular basis to increase our level of social intelligence. When we have acquired the requisite level of social intelligence, we will find that we are able to get along well with bosses, colleagues, neighbours, friends and associates. Now that is a win – win situation for all of us.

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2 thoughts on “The Alluring Grace of Social Intelligence

  1. I think Trump (and HRC) but especially Trump and all his GOP cheerleaders and campaign workers need to read this!!! But the concept would be foreign to the builder of walls, the Insulter-in-Chief of American politics.

    1. It is a real pity that many have chosen to sink to this low level of communication, especially the politicians both in the US and Europe. Our politicians in Malaysia too are of the same ilk!

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