Social Intelligence: Meaning And Application

The tone of his manager's email and how she greets him as he enters her office give John the impression that she is happy with his most recent progress report. He had initially intended to bring up the subject of a promotion in a few weeks, but after observing how she behaved at the meeting today, he now believes she might be receptive to his request. After the meeting, he sends a courteous email to his manager asking for another meeting to discuss his career growth. In this instance, John used his social intelligence to identify the feelings and thoughts of his manager and then foresee the manager's behavior.

What is Social Intelligence?

Understanding other people's intents and motivations and being able to read them is referred to as social intelligence. It is the ability to deal with challenging social situations and surroundings. According to psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, social intelligence, not quantitative intelligence, distinguishes people from other species. Social intelligence, according to social scientist Ross Honeywill, is a composite index of self and social awareness, advanced social beliefs and attitudes, and the capacity and desire to handle challenging social change. Some authors have narrowed the concept to solely address familiarity with social circumstances, arguably more appropriately referred to as social cognition or social marketing intelligence as it relates to popular socio-psychological advertising and marketing approaches.

Contribution of Edward Thorndike

Thorndike (1920) proposed a paradigm for human intelligence in which ideas, events, and people are distinguished as the contents that human intellect must deal with. In other words, he distinguished between different intelligence that is academic, mechanical, and social. The latter was described in this context by Thorndike (1920) as "the capacity to understand and govern men and women, boys and girls, and to act prudently in human connections." Thorndike's idea of social intelligence remains basic and transcends all other definitions. Indeed, when studying the idea of social intelligence, most current research initiatives appear to acknowledge (and consequently rely on) this definition.

Dimensions of Social Intelligence

To offer a better understanding, Albrecht separates social intelligence into the five areas listed below:

  • Situational Awareness − This is the capacity to analyze social contexts and decipher people's behaviors.

  • Presence − This encompasses a wide range of vocal and nonverbal behaviors that characterize us in the eyes of others.

  • Authenticity − These behaviors make people perceive you as sincere, upfront, and "genuine."

  • Clarity − This is the capacity to articulate your thoughts and viewpoints.

  • Empathy − This is the capacity to "connect" with other people.

Theories including Social Intelligence

Gardner's and Sternberg's theories include one or more categories related to social intelligence.

Gardner’s Theory

Following are the categories according to Gardner's theory 

Interpersonal intelligence

It is the capacity to comprehend others and social relationships. People with good interpersonal intelligence can connect with people and understand their emotions and points of view. They can build trusting relationships with others and communicate clearly and effectively. Additionally, they exhibit empathy and sensitivity for others. Social workers, managers, psychologists, nurses, counselors, legislators, leaders, educators, social reformers, and spiritual gurus frequently have high interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence

It is the capacity to comprehend oneself, including one's thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivations, and goals, as well as how this affects behavior. It encompasses awareness of one's talents, weaknesses, and life's objectives. These abilities include the ability to reflect on oneself and engage in introspection. Individuals with high intrapersonal intelligence are typically introverted, and outside events least impact intuitive types who enjoy working alone. Intrapersonal intelligence is necessary for many people-focused professions, including psychologists and spiritual figures like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, and Sri Aurobindo. Writers and philosophers both possess high levels of intrapersonal intelligence.

Stenberg’s Theory

According to Sternberg's thesis, social and practical intelligence are tightly intertwined. It is the capacity to make appropriate use of knowledge in daily life. It is sometimes referred to as "street smart" or "having much common sense." It is the capacity to comprehend and successfully navigate commonplace circumstances and events. Adaptation, shape, and selection are some of their constituent parts. Adaptation occurs when a person changes himself to adjust to a new environment, and shaping is altering one's surroundings to suit one's needs. Selection occurs when an outdated, unproductive environment gets swapped out for a new one.

Why is Social Intelligence Important?

Social intelligence is becoming more crucial than ever.

  • In a world where technology can replace many mundane activities – and in some cases outperform human labor - it is the tasks that require the capacity to detect subtle social cues and act through deliberate negotiation that cannot be easily transferred to machines.

  • Social intelligence aids in the development of relationships and is essential in many facets of a person's life, and it enables the development of friendships and partners.

  • The more social intelligence one can cultivate, the more proficient one becomes at controlling emotions and complicated, shifting social settings.

  • People with stronger social intelligence and healthy social connections tend to have fewer mental health problems, less stress, and better physical health.


Due to its influence on well-being in adolescence and adulthood, social intelligence needs to be valued in addition to more individualistic measurements. Early social intelligence development is essential. According to the data, adolescence is a time when many social intelligence skills are still growing. There is a big chance to impact and mold these skills before they become fixed in their adult forms too rapidly. It is critical to developing communication skills with people from various cultural backgrounds. These skills are important for fostering social intelligence and are needed in the modern workplace. However, unfortunately, they are underdeveloped in young people whose friendship groups are frequently racially and socioeconomically similar to them.