12 signs of high social intelligence that can’t be faked

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We humans are social beings and interact with others on a daily basis, so being socially intelligent is absolutely necessary for personal and professional growth.  

What is social intelligence? 

Let’s define it as the set of skills that allow us to understand others’ actions, communicate with them, and navigate the roles and expectations that others have for us.

People with a high level of social intelligence are able to read the people around them but also know themselves and their own actions.

Luckily, social intelligence can be learned and developed. But that doesn’t stop so many people from putting on a show and pretending to be a lot more socially intelligent than they really are.

So to help you distinguish authentic people, I’ve put together a list of 12 signs of high social intelligence that can’t be faked. 

1) Having an excellent verbal filter 

Have you ever been part of a conversation where a person has said something inappropriate, offensive, or downright rude? It can really change the atmosphere and put a damper on things. 

Having a filter means being able to censor what you are saying so that easy conversation can be maintained without anyone taking offense or feeling hurt.

This is about knowing what to say and what not to say, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding – highly socially intelligent people say the right things at the right times and fakers don’t.

2) Being able to diffuse awkward situations

Sometimes things are going along fine and then someone says or does something that makes things fall apart.

You know what I mean:

Doesn’t everyone have an uncle who airs his wild political theories in the middle of every family dinner, or is it just me?

This behavior reveals his lack of social intelligence but also gives my aunt a chance to display hers by smoothing things over.

By deftly diffusing the situation through creating a distraction or rephrasing what has been said, a socially intelligent person can save the day with minimal damage being done.

3) Being a good listener

Anyone can pretend to listen.

You know that classic TV show trope where someone is holding the phone into space while the other person blathers on and on, interrupting with the occasional “yeah” or “uh-huh”.  

While this is funny on TV, being ignored or not thoroughly listened to can leave the person speaking feeling deflated. 

But socially intelligent people actually listen, and this encourages the speaker and makes them feel valued. 

They can also prove that they’re listening by repeating back what they heard or giving paraphrases so that there’s no doubt that they’re paying attention.

And there’s simply no faking that.

4) Picking up on non-verbal cues

Being sensitive to non-verbal cues means being able to read between the lines and pull out meanings that might go without saying.

This can include something like being able to read a room and pick up on a person who is perhaps isolated and draw them into a conversation to help them feel more included and comfortable. 

A socially intelligent person soaks in things like body language, posture, positioning, affiliations, and so much more to put together a picture of how people relate to each other in each and every social situation they come across.

5) Showing real interest and curiosity 

We all need to feel as though the people around us are interested in what we have to say, and when they show real interest and curiosity, we feel good. 

It helps us to feel validated and that what we have to say is actually important.

Many people feign curiosity about what others are saying, usually in order to gain some advantage. They pretend to be interested in the same way I would listen to my grandpa’s boring stories when I was a kid just so I’d get some candy from him.

Sorry Grandpa.

But people with high social intelligence only show interest when it’s authentic, and if they aren’t all that interested, they don’t pretend but instead find ways to bring the conversation around to another topic.

6) Communicating effectively in any situation

Being able to communicate clearly and effectively in any situation allows us to fit into any situation and get on with anyone, no matter how sophisticated or down-to-earth they may be. 

It’s important to be able to assess and read the people around us, adapting from one moment to the next as we address people of different social standings.

People who struggle to adapt may come across as being superior or stuffy, or socially inappropriate.

But those with really high levels of social intelligence can speak with anyone at any time and still make themselves understood and their messages received.

7) Being mindful and respectful of boundaries

Boundaries are invisible limits that we set around us to protect our physical and emotional well-being, and we all have different boundaries.

People who cross or even just try to cross our boundaries make us feel uncomfortable and even threatened. 

On the other hand, socially intelligent people are able to recognize and respect such boundaries and make the people around them feel comfortable and relaxed. 

This, in effect, actually encourages people to lower their guard, and that makes it easier to build special and meaningful relationships with them. 

8) Managing conflict with ease and finesse

Having a heated discussion or an argument at a party or a social setting is the quickest way to spoil the entire event or gathering and possibly have the host cringing for days after. 

And it’s almost never because only two people get into it.

When a conflict arises between two people or two groups, most people instinctively take sides.

I think we naturally form alliances so that we’re not left alone and unprotected. But what this can mean is that small conflicts can quickly swell into much bigger and more serious situations.

Unless someone with high social intelligence steps in.

While others take sides, socially intelligent people are more interested in managing conflict.

They’re able to put aside the instinct to ally themselves with a side and join the fight and instead focus on listening to both sides, finding common ground between them, and deflating serious situations.

These are the signs of an expert negotiator and are impossible to fake.

9) Being genuinely empathetic

It is a basic human need to feel that the people around us care.

In certain social situations, people can “offload” things that make them vulnerable, and a truly socially intelligent person is able to show empathy in these situations. 

That means lowering their guard and connecting with the person to show understanding and to be able to relate to whatever is being shared.

Showing empathy can also be quite tiring as it means giving off your personal energy, but socially intelligent people are able to take time later and “recharge their own batteries.”

Fake empathy, on the other hand, is easy to spot because the person showing it doesn’t actually open up or offer any vulnerability. They simply say and do things that seem empathetic but don’t give anything of themselves to the other person.

10) Feeling at ease during periods of silence

It is inevitable that there will be breaks in conversation and interactions. 

A socially awkward person may show signs of discomfort and start fidgeting or saying something unsuitable in an attempt to break the silence. 

But people with high social intelligence are totally fine with this and feel relaxed regardless. 

They know silence can have meaning and value, and appreciate that others may also need time to think or just pause before continuing in their interactions.

11) Appreciating others and giving credit where it is due

A socially intelligent person is at ease with themselves, which allows them to look outside of themselves and recognize the good in others. 

This means being appreciative of other people and showing this appreciation openly.

It also means giving credit where credit is due and recognizing the achievements of others. 

Fakers, though, will pretend to be happy for someone else’s success when they’re actually choking with jealousy.

They aren’t able to stop themselves from turning around and expressing this jealousy by talking behind the person’s back.

12) Having a balanced opinion of themselves

A socially intelligent person knows their own values, strengths, and weaknesses and is self-assured in their view of themselves and their opinions without being full of themselves or “big-headed.” 

This realistic self-image allows them to put aside their own need for validation and focus on the people around them.

But people with low social intelligence don’t understand themselves well enough and can overinflate or undervalue themselves.

Think about all those horrible singers who think they’re going to win X-Factor!

High social intelligence can’t be faked

Social intelligence shows clearly in people’s words and actions. They promote care, empathy, and self-awareness and create a safe environment for others, becoming the natural leaders and true influencers.

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