If someone displays these 8 behaviors, they have low social intelligence

Intelligence is an extremely complex concept, one that is constantly being researched, analyzed, and updated. 

It’d be quite easy if the world were split into “smart” and “stupid” people, but nothing is ever that black-and-white – intelligence included.

There are multiple types of intelligence, and social intelligence is only one of them.  Nonetheless, it’s a crucial component of human behavior that often determines how you are perceived by the world around you. 

That’s why it’s super important to work on your “people skills” alongside general self-development.

So, what’s the difference between social and emotional intelligence?

Well, the first is essentially an important aspect of the latter. According to Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence theory, EQ comprises self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

The fifth factor is what we’ll focus on today.

If someone displays these 8 behaviors, they have low social intelligence.

1) They find it challenging to read other people’s emotions and intentions

Researchers say that when we try to define social intelligence, we “emphasize how individuals understand and interpret their own behavior and behavior of other people.”

It’s all about how you act and react in social situations.

If someone struggles to read the emotions of others – for example, let’s say they struggle to determine whether the other person is amused or uncomfortable – their reactions might not fit the right context, leading to awkward communication.

If this sounds like you, please remember that experiencing these challenges doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with you. For example, many people on the autistic spectrum have difficulties navigating social situations, but that doesn’t make their experience of life any less valid.

2) They speak before they think

Aside from behavior interpretation, social intelligence is linked to another crucial element, and that is emotional self-regulation.

Emotions are a tough beast to tame. Especially if someone’s hurt you and you’re so submerged in boiling rage that you can’t think clearly.

However, anger isn’t the only culprit here. Sometimes, I get so excited I blurt out things I should keep to myself. Sometimes, I am so sad I accidentally overshare. Sometimes, I feel so anxious I completely fail to put my emotions into words.

As far as social intelligence is concerned, what matters is the frequency. How often do you blurt out things you don’t mean? How often are you considered rude or too blunt? How often do you start an argument because your emotions take complete power over you?

Low social intelligence is the inability to control yourself in social situations. Instead of keeping your anger under lock, you have an outburst at the supermarket. Instead of containing your excitement, you talk so loudly that the whole train can’t help but listen to your story.

It’s all about balance.

3) They act inappropriately

Social norms can be a tough nut to crack. While some people are naturally in tune with what their environment expects of them, others struggle to blend in and fit the vibe.

If someone has low social intelligence, they might often engage in behavior that’s at odds with the situation at hand.

For example, they may overshare about their personal life at a business conference, wear a tracksuit to a 5-star restaurant, or make big declarations of love on a second date.

They simply struggle to recognize what others expect of them or to change their behavior in order to meet those expectations.

4) They don’t realize that they talk too much

The majority of communication is conducted through nonverbal or vocal signs.

It’s not just about what people say – it matters a great deal how they say it and what their body language is like when they say it.

However, a person with low social intelligence will very likely miss those little nuances in human behavior – especially if they’re talking for so long that they’re completely lost in their own narrative.

Let’s say you’re telling a story to an acquaintance at a party. You’ve been talking for a good twenty minutes, and the other person’s reactions seem to be less and less enthusiastic as time goes on. They’re slowly inching further away from you, their feet are pointed in a different direction, and their eyes are glazed over.

If you’re socially intelligent, you will quickly realize you’ve monopolized the conversation and will turn the focus to the other person by asking them a question.

If you’re not, you’ll probably just keep on talking until they make up an excuse to leave.

5) They struggle with teamwork

Teamwork is based on cooperation, empathy, and socially appropriate behavior.

Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that people with low social intelligence don’t make for ideal team members.

They like to do things their way. They don’t want to wait for Carol to send over her part of the presentation or for Jake to finally book the meeting room for next Thursday. Solving interpersonal issues is an obstacle they’d rather not deal with, and the time it takes to reach a group decision seems painfully long.

Many people who struggle socially prefer to work at their own pace, in the comfort of their own silence.

6) They don’t deal with arguments very well

Close relationships are built on respect and empathy.

When one of you expresses their feelings or concerns about the relationship, it’s the other person’s job to validate those emotions, listen empathetically, and try to work together to reach a solution.

Even if it means compromising or offering a potential sacrifice on their end.

Here’s where things get a bit complicated for those who lack social skills. Since they find it hard to understand other people’s emotions and interpret their behavior, they might be quite stubborn during conflicts and refuse to compromise.

Their own perception of the situation may overcloud any other input, and they will hold onto their side of the argument no matter the cost.

7) They display low self-awareness

It can be a tremendous challenge to explain to someone with low social intelligence why their behavior isn’t…it.

Since social intelligence is one of the five components of EQ, it makes sense that it interacts with and is influenced by the other four aspects.

And self-awareness is a big one.

If you’re self-aware, you can admit when you’ve made a mistake and learn from it.

If you’re self-aware, you’re able to reflect on your behavior and take the necessary steps to change it.

If you’re self-aware…you know yourself extremely well. You know your strengths and weaknesses, your triggers, your soothing strategies. This gives you the necessary tools to navigate social situations with ease and confidence.

To sum it up, self-awareness is the foundation of growth.

However, low self-awareness may hinder social intelligence and vice versa, which then becomes a vicious cycle of poor interpersonal communication and a lack of self-development.

8) They can act awkward and shy

Of course, not everyone with low social intelligence lacks self-awareness. Some people have a very rich inner life and simply struggle to transfer that into their connection with the outside world.

This inability to meet social expectations can be a real hit to one’s self-esteem because no matter what you do, you just always seem to get it wrong.

As a consequence, people who lack social skills may act awkward and shy because they don’t feel comfortable being themselves around others.

I have good news, though! Social intelligence isn’t something rigid. In fact, you can learn and boost your social skills over time – all you need is some advice and practice.

Start with the basics. Listen actively and ask follow-up questions, choose your words carefully, and catch yourself if you’ve been talking for too long during a conversation.

Lastly, remember that we all have our own challenges in life. And in the end, that’s all this is – a challenge.

Your job is to rise and meet it whenever you’re ready.


Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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