How To Build Social Intelligence

One of the traits of great leaders is the ability to be socially intelligent, which involves being aware of others around you and the ability to manage those relationships. Like I have mentioned previously, most people have the technical ability to succeed, but lack the social aspects, which I find to be especially true in the IT industry. One important thing to remember is that Social Intelligence is not a gift you are born with, but can be learned and built up over time. In this post I would like to go over some of the aspects which are important in Social Intelligence.

  1. Ability to adapt to others
    Many leaders say that it is "either my way or the highway". If you aren't able to adapt to other peoples personality profile you will never to able to influence them. Don't take the approach of "this is my leadership style, so take it or leave it". It is okay to have a core philosophy and principles, but you need to adjust to the person and not be rigid.

  2. The ability to connect and bond
    This boils down to having empathy. For some people this may be difficult as they struggle to see the situation from someone else's perspective. When you do this, the other person knows that you care for them and their well-being.

  3. Ability to engage with people
    As humans, we tend to gravitate to people that have similarities to use, be it race, religion, gender or a myriad of other things. Often, people will also try "protect" themselves from people who they see to be a "threat", be it in terms of a bigger build, wiser or in a more senior position and therefore never interact with them. However, if you follow the "Two-question rule", where you follow a question with another question to probe a little deeper.
    For example, lets you have the following conversation:

    Thomas: "How was your weekend?"
    Hugo: "Good thanks and yours?"
    Thomas: "Good as well. Did you do anything interesting?"
    Hugo: "Yeah, I actually went abseiling and rock climbing..."

    As you can see, by going two levels deep you can actually find out a lot more about a person, than you normally would have, and more than likely you will find something in common with them. This technique is especially useful for the cool blues who tend to be introverts and struggle to interact in social environments.

  4. The art of networking
    What is important here is being able to relate to people that you don't know. Being a cool blue, I typically have found it difficult to interact with other people whom I don't know well. In the end, I'm the one that limits myself with interactions with other people.

  5. Adding value
    People who have a good level of Social Intelligence are always contributing to the conversation and giving something back. You don't want to dominate the conversation, but rather allow for a healthy interaction where you leave the person feeling "enriched" and not unintelligent. You want to leave the conversation with the other person saying "I just want to spend more time with them" rather than "Here comes Lawrence, he really drains me"

  6. Ability to receive from others
    This requires a mindset change in that you start to see that other people can actually help you, especially for people who find it difficult to ask for help. I find this particularly true in the IT industry, where people are filled with egos. By allowing other people to contribute you make them feel good and allowing them to be "part of the group". A side effect of allowing people to contribute is that if they have self-esteem issues, it allows them to become more confident.

  7. Awareness of others
    You may find yourself in situations where you have people just ramble on or they are just unaware of the people around them. You should always try to be aware of other people differences, similarities, fears etc. and cater for them. In doing this they become more accepting of you.

  8. Interdependence
    Many people may think that the mark of being mature is independence, being able to do everything yourself. However, what you should strive for is acknowledging that people have expertise in certain areas and by giving them the ball and running with it, they can do a really great job. By doing this, you strengthen them and ensure that the task is being handled by the best people possible.

  9. Ability to put people at ease
    Part of being Socially Intelligent is that you are aware of other peoples fears, drives and motivations. As a leader you should should then do and say things that puts them at ease. You will find yourself saying things like "Don't worry about the specifications being vague, we have sorted it out as I know it was worrying a few of you." One important thing to remember is that you cannot put people at ease, if you yourself are not at ease with the situation.

  10. Mutual respect
    This involves you being able to see the good in other people and listen to their perspective, despite any differences or disagreements you may have with them. You should never block out a person just because you don't connect or agree with their point of view. For some people, mutual respect may mean not raising your voice to them or something as simple as being on time for a meeting. It is is therefore important that you understand what mutual respect it is from their perspective.

So that wraps up this post. I hope this provided you with an overview of some of the areas that you maybe need to improve on. As always I would love to hear your thoughts about the topic, so post any comments you may have below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa