Let me introduce you to my best friend Clara.
(Everyone say hi, Clara.)
There are numerous things I love about Clara – such as her empathetic nature or the way she giggles when you spill some tea on your love life – but the one thing I love most is that she is highly socially intelligent.
In other words, she makes you feel absolutely amazing during every single conversation because her people skills are off the charts.
Keen to learn more?
Here are the 9 things socially intelligent people do to connect deeply with others.
1) They encourage you to talk about yourself
Every time Clara and I meet, she’s so enthusiastic to hear about my life – “I want to hear how that essay went, tell me about the date you went on, oh, and how is your new apartment?” – that I automatically feel deeply connected to her.
She makes me feel like she genuinely cares. Like there’s nothing more important than the interaction we are having together. Like I matter.
And it’s absolutely amazing.
Once our chat comes to an end and we part ways, I always feel light and joyful, brimming with all the stories of her own life while having shared huge parts of mine.
2) They make sure you know that you’re not “too much”
Sometimes when Clara asks me to talk about myself, I can ramble on for ages. The story has multiple sub-plotlines that diverge from the main topic before we return to the main point, and when I’m finally done talking, twenty minutes have passed.
Naturally, telling such a long story can come with some guilt attached. Have I been talking for too long? Is she still interested? Am I monopolizing the conversation?
While thoughts like this often come to mind during conversations with others, it almost never happens with Clara.
Want to know why?
Because she knows how to make you feel like you’re not “too much”.
“I’m sorry, I feel like I’ve been talking for ages!”
“No, please! I want to hear it all!”
What’s more, she isn’t just being polite when she says that. She genuinely listens.
3) They actively listen and ask follow-up questions
This is my favorite part. When I tell Clara a story, she isn’t just nodding along and blanking out.
While some people tend to look into the distance, check their phone, or try to change the topic, Clara makes you the center of her universe.
“Oh my god! Wow! No, he didn’t! I don’t even know what I’d do in that situation! Oh, that’s so tricky! What did he say next?”
Strong emotional reactions and follow-up questions are Clara’s forte, which means that every time you’re telling a story, it’s a whole experience in and of itself. And the connection you form through that experience of active telling and listening is super special.
4) They give thoughtful compliments
“You always work so hard. It’s really impressive.”
“Why, thank you.”
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to yet another specialty of socially intelligent people: compliments.
They aren’t just any compliments, though. We’re talking depth. We’re talking nuance.
A person with great people skills will pay attention to the little things and will try to learn as much as they can about your personality. Once they’ve gotten to know you pretty well, they’ll whip up some of the best compliments you’ve ever heard.
“It’s so sweet how you always stop to talk to people on the street. It’s really inspiring because I get shy sometimes, and seeing you act so comfortable around strangers encourages me to do the same.”
How freaking nice is that?!
Not only have you been complimented on your behavior and personality, but you’re now also a real-life self-development influencer.
Compliments like that are golden.
5) They remember the little things
Of course, the reason socially smart people are such compliment experts is that they pay attention.
Clara and I sometimes like to get bubble tea together. It’s never occurred to me to pay any special attention to what we order, though – I just get what I want and carry on with the conversation.
A few months back, Clara called me to ask me if I wanted her to get us bubble tea on her way to my place (yet another amazing perk of being friends with a socially intelligent person – they go the extra mile just to see you smile).
Then she said, “You always get medium strawberry cream cheese with extra tapioca and no ice, right?”
My jaw dropped. Just…wow. At this point, I’m convinced she knows me better than my own mom.
6) They take the time to learn your love language
Clara’s decision to get us bubble tea was a typical act of service, aka, one of the five love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
- Quality time
Everyone’s love language is unique to their personality and needs, which is why it’s so valuable when someone takes the time to actually learn yours.
It means not only that they want to get to know you properly but also that they want to do everything in their power to make you feel loved and cherished.
Learning your love language is an incredibly beautiful way to connect with you on a deep level and cultivate your relationship.
7) They respect your boundaries 100% of the time
If there’s a foolproof way to destroy a connection with someone, it’s got to be disrespecting their boundaries.
I don’t know how about you, but the moment someone tries to push me in spite of my refusal or obvious discomfort is the moment I cut all ties and distance myself emotionally.
When social intelligence is added into the mix, though, you almost never have to worry about this. And that’s because people like Clara make you feel safe.
They never force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with. They never get mad if you say no.
Before they ask you a personal question, they ask for your consent. They’re simply all about boundaries and respect, which makes the whole relationship a free and authentic space where you feel safe enough to be yourself.
Respect is the groundwork on which connection can be built. Socially intelligent people understand that.
8) They try to work through conflict in a way that helps the relationship grow
Respect is a vital part of healthy conflict. If you just throw jabs and insults at each other, you probably won’t get very far – in fact, your relationship is likely to get worse and deteriorate as a result.
The socially intelligent thing to do is to approach conflict from a place of respect and love.
Clara and I never argue because we sort through every issue before it even becomes a big deal. When she dislikes something, she says it in an assertive, yet calm and polite way:
“I think I’d prefer X, what do you think? We can chat about it more if you’d like.”
There’s a general understanding between us that we wouldn’t do anything malicious to one another and that our primary goal is to nurture the friendship and make each other happy.
If that means compromise, so be it. We always try to be just a little bit selfless and just a little bit selfish depending on the circumstances.
9) They’re all for experiences and activities that bring you closer together
One last thing I’ll say about Clara is that she absolutely loves board games – and as strange as it may sound, this is yet another sign of social intelligence.
When you play board games, you’re getting to know each other on an experiential level rather than a conversational one. And since people are naturally driven to foster connections through experiences, a board game is an amazing way to deepen your bond and create lovely memories.
This doesn’t apply only to board games, of course. A socially intelligent person will ask you to go on trips with them, to go bowling, cycling, hiking, or to attend an event together.
You might spend every week chatting about your separate lives over coffee, but the fact remains that the best way to connect is to blend those lives together into one shared experience – even if only for an afternoon.