Want to know whether you have amazing people skills?
Let’s play a game.
I’ll ask you 9 questions, and your answers will tell you everything you need to know.
How socially intelligent are you? I mean, really?
It’s time to find out.
1) Do you feel confident in social situations?
At its core, social intelligence is about the ability to navigate social situations with ease and understanding.
Sure, you might enjoy standing in the corner once in a while. Sure, you might prefer to keep out of the spotlight. Those things say very little about confidence.
What matters is the energy you exude – are you relaxed? Comfortable? Or do you feel awkward and too self-conscious? – and the way you act once people start talking to you.
Are you at ease and happy to be chatting with someone? Do you feel self-assured, like you can flow through the conversation without slipping up?
If your answer is yes, it’s a great sign you’re socially intelligent. You’re a social butterfly, flying from one person to the next seamlessly and with an aura of confidence.
What’s more, you rarely cause any faux pas, which brings us to the next question.
2) Do you intuitively know what’s appropriate and what isn’t?
Socially intelligent people are the masters of social cues. They pick up on the subtle ways in which the people around them act and model them in order to easily fit in.
They know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.
It’s almost like a superpower.
The well-known sociologist Erving Goffman once said, “Our social lives are essentially dramaturgical, like a play.”
Every day, we put on masks depending on what circle of people we find ourselves in. You’re a different person when you’re with your family than at a business conference. The stage is smaller, more comfortable – and so you play a different role.
A glaring sign of social intelligence is the ability to switch between your roles without any hiccups.
When you’re at a work meeting, you don’t bring up childhood trauma. When you’re at a wedding, you don’t talk about death. And when you go to a luxurious party, you know what the dining etiquette is (even if you have to google it beforehand).
Wherever you are… you just fit in.
3) Do you struggle to make conversation?
It’s happened to most of us. You’re hanging out with someone, only to realize that you’ve run into yet another conversational dead-end and have no clue what to say next.
What ensues are three minutes that feel like three centuries as you frantically search the corners of your mind for another topic to talk about.
Socially intelligent people know just what to say to magic the insufferable silence away. All you need is the right set of questions and the genuine curiosity to hear about someone else’s life.
If you have great people skills, your conversations rarely stagger. On the contrary, you know what to ask and where to direct the discussion so that it keeps on flowing like a river.
And you don’t stay at small talk, either – you whip out questions that are actually interesting to think about, prompting the person to give you genuinely excited answers and connect with you on a deeper level.
4) Do you accidentally interrupt people?
Great, you’re having a conversation with no awkward pauses. That’s a win!
But as you’re chatting, there’s yet another sign of social intelligence to watch out for – and it lies in the details.
Do you know when the other person’s finished speaking? Or do you often misunderstand when it’s your turn, interrupting and chiming in at uncomfortable moments?
And if you do accidentally interrupt someone, how do you handle it?
My friend – who’s an amazing social butterfly – always says, “Oh sorry, go on.” And just like that, the attention is back on the speaker.
It’s the little verbal and nonverbal details that socially intelligent people intuitively notice, letting them know if they’ve got a green light to speak.
5) Can you tell if someone’s losing interest in what you’re saying?
Another small thing socially intelligent people take note of is how engaged the other speaker is.
Do they seem into what you’re saying? Or are they just nodding along, their blank stares revealing that their mind’s completely elsewhere? And what about their feet? Are they turned away from you, signaling that they’re preparing to end the conversation and go?
Social intelligence is about reading other people’s intentions as well as having high self-awareness.
If you notice you’ve been talking for way too long and are kind of boring to listen to, you automatically switch gears and start asking questions, bringing the person back into the conversation.
6) Are you an active listener?
Asking questions is one thing. Actively listening to someone’s answer is another game entirely.
I’ve met people who will ask you a question just for the sake of seeming interested. Then they blank out the moment you open your mouth. Once you’re done answering, they barely acknowledge it and turn the attention back to themselves.
As you’re looking at them talk, it begins to dawn on you that each time you speak, they’re fully submerged in their own heads, already preparing what they’ll say next.
This is the antithesis to active listening, which is described by the psychologist Dianne Grande Ph.D. as “a way of listening that involves full attention to what is being said for the primary purpose of understanding the speaker.”
When you listen, you’re truly present. You nod along empathetically, ask follow-up questions, offer appropriate reactions, and spend all your energy on what the other person is saying.
And if you’re amazing at active listening… congrats! You might be very socially intelligent.
7) Do you often find yourself in interpersonal conflicts?
Everything we’ve covered so far falls under one primary category: communication.
The same goes for conflicts.
People who are in tune with themselves and the social world around them are rarely involved in conflicts or arguments, mostly because they know how to prevent such situations in the first place.
Are you one of them?
Here’s the checklist:
- You communicate assertively and respectfully
- You know how to say “no” politely and self-assuredly
- You explain your boundaries and expectations early on in new relationships
- You don’t stoop to someone’s level if they’re acting in an emotionally immature way
- You’re solution-oriented
- You don’t hold grudges
- You know when to let go of people who bring you down
Alright, next question!
8) Do you think through the consequences of your actions?
Conflicts often arise as a result of actions that weren’t well thought-out to begin with.
Let’s say someone’s asked you to go to a concert with them. Straight away, you say “yes” because it’s a band you really like. In the heat of it all, you completely forget that your mum’s birthday is on the very same day – and you’ve already promised to spend it with her.
Bang! That’s a root of a potential conflict right there.
What sets socially intelligent people apart is that they always account for all the different consequences of their actions before they make any final decision.
Are there any people you need to check in with before you book that holiday?
Should you ask your partner if they have any plans for the evening before you go to the pub?
Isn’t it better to say “I’ll check my calendar” instead of an immediate “yes” when you’re not entirely sure if you’ll be free next month?
“Considerate”. An adjective that’s basically synonymous with “socially intelligent”.
9) Can you read people’s emotions and intentions?
And just like that, we’ve arrived at the final question! Are you good at reading between the lines?
If someone’s emotional energy switches, can you tell? If someone’s faking niceness, do you pick up on it? Do you often listen to your gut feeling?
Socializing is as much about the unseen as it is about the obvious. There are multiple undertones to people’s behavior, and social intelligence is partly determined by how easily you unpeel those layers.
Listen to your intuition. What is it telling you?
And that’s us! Here’s a quick cheat list of the correct answers to the above questions:
All it takes is practice, practice, practice.
And the secret sauce? Confidence. Sometimes, you’ve just got to fake it till you make it.
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