10 things you’re doing in public that demonstrate real social intelligence

Social intelligence can be summed up by how well we navigate our relationships with the wider world.

It’s about how good our social skills are, and the impact that has on interpersonal dynamics.

You need to be aware of your own emotions and those of others, as well as be able to adapt and respond appropriately.

A lot of this happens behind the scenes. So much so, that you may not even realize just how skillful you are at it.

Here are the things you’re doing in public that demonstrate real social intelligence…

1) Keeping certain things to yourself

You’re not compelled to say everything you think.

Sometimes it’s wiser to say nothing at all.

You wouldn’t be seen dead in your friend’s new dress, but she doesn’t need to know that.

The same goes for not feeling the need to correct someone when they make a little mistake or silly error.

There is a fine line between white lies and social tact. Knowing how to navigate this line can be intuitive.

The reality is that it’s not only okay to keep schtum, sometimes it’s the kindest course of action.

2) Considering your words carefully

This flows on from our last point.

When you do speak, you try to think first.

You may not manage this 100% of the time (hey, we are all only human). But it helps to minimize the times that you will inadvertently put your foot in your mouth.

Communication is complicated.

In any conversation, there is:

  • What we mean to say
  • What we actually say
  • What the other person hears
  • How the other person interprets what they hear

That leaves plenty of room for crossed wires along the way.

We can reduce the chance of this simply by bringing more awareness to our choice of words and how they might land with the other person.

3) Using the following phrases

There are some fairly simple phrases that you may frequently pull out.

These serve to highlight just how good you are at maneuvering social relationships.

According to psychology experts, they can include sentences like:

  • “I’d love your thoughts on this.”
  • “Can I get some advice from you?”
  • “Do you mind if I ask for some input?”

All of these phrases help to make others feel good about themselves, as you make it clear they have something useful to offer.

Meanwhile, the following all show that you care about other people’s beliefs, ideas, and feelings:

  • “Tell me more”
  • “I’m not sure I understand, but I’d like to try”
  • “I’m sorry”
  • “That’s a good point”
  • “I hear you”

The chances are, you are constantly affirming others with your choice of words, without knowing it.

4) Listening to others in ways that make them feel heard

As we all know, contributing to conversations is an important part of building social relationships.

Yet equally vital is how well we respond to others’ who are speaking.

Those completely lacking in social intelligence may over-inflate their role, hog the conversation, and shout people down.

But socially smart people practice active listening.

That means:

  • They don’t just keep quiet, they pay attention to the speaker
  • They keep good eye contact to show they’re doing this
  • They do non-verbal gestures, like nodding their head, to encourage the speaker to continue

5) Picking up on the vibes other people are giving out

How good are you at reading the room?

This understated skill matters a lot.

It makes sure we don’t land ourselves in hot water for starters.

I was once at a party where a woman who had arrived late also turned up VERY drunk.

She was so loud and overpowering whilst the rest of the group was quietly sitting and chatting.

There was a total mix-match of energy. Her intoxicated state meant she lost any ability to note the tone of the occasion.

It may not be as extreme as the example above, but some people who are lacking in social intelligence can often miss the mark too.

Meanwhile, those with it can better grasp the overall vibe and assimilate into that.

Rather than being a sixth sense, it’s about:

  • Reading and interpreting facial expressions and body language
  • Recognizing when others may be uncomfortable or disengaged
  • Adjusting your behavior accordingly

6) Putting your point across without offending

This one shows plenty of skill.

If you can explain your own point of view without treading on other people’s toes, that’s real social intelligence.

You’re not just keeping quiet for the sake of an easy life. You’re not afraid to speak up and share your thoughts and opinions.

Yet at the same time, you are delicate and tactful in your approach.

It demands thoughtfulness for other people’s feelings.

It requires plenty of self-awareness to monitor the language you use and your tone of voice in delivering it.

It means allowing space for people who may disagree to still feel heard and validated.

That’s quite a juggling act!

7) Talking to people from all walks of life

The real test of our social skills isn’t when we’re in our comfort zone.

It’s not how well we can communicate with and get along with our nearest and dearest.

The strength of your social intelligence is seen most in whether you can also connect the people who are nothing like you.

On the surface, you don’t have a lot in common, but you go looking for things to connect on.

This is what helps to make us more inclusive and respectful of diversity.

That means not only embracing, but actively enjoying different backgrounds, cultures, and opinions when you encounter them.

8) Taking a genuine interest in others

I mentioned earlier the type of people who always seem to monopolize the conversation.

They appear oblivious to the fact it should be a two-way street of give and take.

Instead, they use you as a mere sounding board, giving you very little opportunity for your input.

Social intelligence on the other hand takes a far smarter approach.

It recognizes that we all like to talk about ourselves, so giving people the chance to do so makes you instantly more likable. That’s something that research has confirmed.

If you’re driven by a genuine desire to get to know people, you probably find:

  • You ask questions about their lives and interests
  • You participate in conversations without talking over
  • You remember what other people tell you, which helps you build a relationship with them

9) Sweet-talking people when they have their back up

Whenever I meet someone who is clearly in a stink of a mood, I see it as a chance to get to work.

I make it my mission to charm them.

Now I know what you may be thinking, isn’t that a bit manipulative? But I don’t think so. I think it’s smart.

Often, offering sincere compliments and showing our appreciation is enough to get someone onside.

Let me give you an example:

Late one Friday afternoon the electric window on my car broke and was stuck down.

Obviously, I couldn’t just park it like that overnight. So I quickly made a beeline for the nearest garage.

Sadly the guy I encountered did not have that Friday feeling. He was clearly stressed out and not in the mood to help.

If I’m honest, he was pretty rude. 

He abruptly told me it was too close to closing time, and I’d need to find somewhere else.

But instead of meeting his hostility, I decided to go the softly, softly, catchee monkey route.

I tried to be EXTRA nice.

I let him know I realized he must be tired and want to go home after a long hard week. I apologized for any extra burden this might create for him.

I asked if there was any compromise we could find — not to fix it now, but at least have him physically pull the window up again (so my car didn’t get stolen!).

Luckily for me, his mood softened and he agreed to do what he could.

It may not seem much, but this sort of thing shows you can tap into people’s feelings and try to delicately navigate them.

10) Being mindful of people’s personal space

Here’s another one that 99% of the time you do without giving it a second thought.

That’s respecting physical boundaries.

We all have an invisible bubble around us. We don’t just let anyone cross into it. That right must be earned.

Have you ever had someone who you don’t know well enough come way too close?

It’s overfamiliar so probably felt very awkward. You may have had to take a step back to physically withdraw.

Most of us with social intelligence automatically abide by socially acceptable distances (without needing to get out the tape measure!).

That means:

  • Giving people enough space to feel comfortable
  • Adjusting behavior in crowded or confined areas

Social intelligence isn’t about sucking up to people

In today’s interconnected world, social intelligence plays a crucial role in our daily interactions.

But here’s an important fact we should all remember:

Social intelligence is not just about being well-liked or fitting in. We certainly shouldn’t be striving to become people-pleasers.

It’s simply about genuinely connecting with others and getting to grips with how we can create a more positive and harmonious social environment.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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