Social intelligence can improve your relationships

be more present

Social intelligence can improve your relationships

He asked his five-year old daughter to recite a poem in front of the lady. She refused to utter a single word. He asked her to translate a sentence to English. She couldn’t. Later when he asked her why she didn’t do those things despite knowing how to, she said with a shrug: “Because I didn’t like that aunty!”

A frustrated man asked his wife: “Where am I going wrong? I am giving you all that a husband should and can. And on the top of it, we even spend a lot of time together. I always try to be there…listen to you.” The wife said in a somber tone: “I know you are listening, but I wonder why it doesn’t feel so.”

A couple said to me: “Our son just doesn’t communicate with us. We don’t know what to do.” I told them, “He does”. They said “No. You don’t understand. He doesn’t talk at all.” I said: “That’s precisely what is saying a lot.”

The connect

In the world of relationships, things may seem complex. Yet if we take a good look at it, patterns appear. Be it our first time meeting someone or our normal interactions with the people around us, there is an invisible glue at work. In simple terms, you may call it ‘connect’.
This holds true even with the most important people in our lives. For instance, Leo Tolstoy famously said “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Immensely valid point coming from a great thinker. Yet, I wish to be allowed to disagree a little. I believe that all unhappy families are also alike in a sense that all of them lack that connect.

All relationships are based on the all-important connect. Just the way two people need to share factual information to establish a contact, to establish a connect, they need to share emotional information. And the best part is that the desire to connect is so deeply woven into each one of us that people keep sending emotional signals all the time.

The only difference is that more often than not, these signals are subtle and are in the form of gestures, postures and expressions. And that is the realm of social intelligence.

Social intelligence is observing nonverbal behaviour and understanding emotions for greater interpersonal effectiveness and self-management’.

So, how successful you are in connecting to people primarily depends on how well you can understand what is going on inside them. People’s behaviour is eventually a reflection of their emotions. So if you can connect emotionally, you can synchronise behaviourally and thus excel interpersonally.

Social intelligence is a skill backed by conceptual depth. It helps you observe a person’s gestures, postures and expressions in the light of the emotional counterparts.

How it works

For instance, while interacting with a family member, a relative, a friend or a colleague, this skill can help you gauge from his or her gestures and postures whether the person’s emotional state is negative or positive or that of appeal or avoidance. Then you can zero in on the exact emotion by observing their face.

This knowledge can be utilised to then prepare the most apt response on your part based on the context and setting. Now, the best part of social intelligence is that once you have responded in the chosen manner, you can observe if that response has generated the desired effect – as the effect can again be observed by the change in that person’s gestures,expressions or postures.

But first, you need to cultivate the ability and the willingness to observe. Even though human beings are wired to connect, look around and you would find that the very basis of our social being is surely under serious threat, if not already destroyed.

At homes, fathers are busy staring at their phones, mothers are busy watching television, kids are busy with their video games and teenagers are tuned into their  I-Pod. Similarly, at workplace, bosses are busy looking at laptops and employees are either logged into their company’s intranets or some social networking sites.

Even the world of education hasn’t remained unaffected. Teachers are looking at their PowerPoint presentations rather than at students while the students are snoozing, hoping to refer to online videos and learn later.

The need to reconnect

We are looking less at people, listening to them less, being less mentally-present in conversations and are paying lesser attention to their reactions. And with decreasing attention span and declining face-to-face contact, people are finding it hard to relate to each other, connect with each other and hold on to relationships. In other words, there is an all-pervasive disconnect. And it is costing us much more than we are cognisant of.

It is manifesting in increased divorce rates and separation, suicides and substance abuse, extramarital relationships, dissatisfaction in parent-child bonds, violent outbursts, attrition rate, drop-out rate, customer-churn and overall social intolerance. And the only way to rediscover that invisible glue – the connect – is to develop the skill of social intelligence.

And what makes this skill even more important for interpersonal success is the fact that in the contemporary world, all relationships are overwhelmed by the need to stand strong in the onslaught of unprecedented speed of change. It makes an even stronger case for creating stable and supportive relationships.

In all, what damages a relationship most is unresponsiveness. And this unresponsiveness is mostly born out of disinterest. And that disinterest is mostly a side-effect of decreased willingness and ability to observe.

This skill of social intelligence and the knowledge associated with it builds an interpersonal bridge byreviving one’s focus towards the importance of paying attention to people and then strengthening their skill-set to do it competently.

Social intelligence prepares the ground for a successful and fulfilling interpersonal life with improved ability to connect to each other. And this then sets the foundation for success in all walks of life.

(The author is a writer and founder-director, Socialigence)

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