Social intelligence is often simplistically referred to as ‘people skills’ as it is the ability to get along well with others and to get them to cooperate.

Social intelligence includes an awareness of situations and the social dynamics that govern them, and a knowledge of interaction styles and strategies that can help a person to achieve their objectives in dealing with others. It also involves a certain amount of self-insight and a consciousness of one’s own perceptions and reaction patterns.

Social intelligence is a combination of skills expressed through learned behaviour. By assessing the impact of your behaviour on others – the degree to which your dealings with them are successful – you can experiment with new behaviours and new interaction strategies.

Unfortunately, many people do not continue to learn and grow as they get older as they have developed a set of behavioural capabilities that have given them a degree of success. Some people never acquire the awareness and skills they need to succeed in social, business or professional situations. Adults who lack insight and competence in dealing with others can make significant improvements in their work-related performance by understanding some basic concepts and assessing themselves against comprehensive models of interpersonal effectiveness.

The Principles of Social Intelligence

Social intelligence consists of four key principles:

  1. Respect for others. People come from various walks of life, with cultural and educational backgrounds that are wholly unique. So, everyone has a different viewpoint or opinion.Each individual has feelings and thoughts and, as such, there should be an understanding that everyone deserves respect and consideration.
  2. Honour different perspectives. The what and why behind the perspectives of others must be understood. What is their belief and why do they hold this assumption? Every person is viewing the situation from a different perspective, as they each have their own experiences, skills, talents and insights.Having social intelligence does not necessarily require you to accept or understand an opposing viewpoint, but honours the fact that everyone is entitled to their own perspective.
  3. Behavioural awareness. Everyone has the right to feel whatever they choose to feel. However, there must also be awareness when automatic behaviour comes into play. This behaviour can be habitual and therefore not involve any forethought but is simply acted upon based on assumptions or ingrained beliefs. The ability to become aware of this automatic behaviour, however, enables these behaviours to be modified to achieve more desirable outcomes.
  4. Effective decision making. Social intelligence means comprehending that every aspect of life, including social situations, involves decision making. More importantly, every choice leads to consequences, both good and bad.In a team, decisions are made to lead or to follow, to cooperate or work independently, to contribute and get involved or stand and observe.

The SPACE Formula of Social Intelligence

The SPACE formula describes a set of behaviours that make up social intelligence and social skills.

S – Situational awareness
People with good situational awareness are able to read cues within an environment and how events in it are playing out. This includes the effects on the emotions and behaviour of others involved. They may then be able to take steps to improve the atmosphere in an oppressive setting, or to maintain the mood in a positive one.

P – Presence
Presence describes the combined effect that a person has on others in a group due to their appearance, attitude, personality, body language and behaviour. Through presence, opinions are formed of others and assumptions are made, which affects the way they are treated initially. In particular, distinctive physical and behavioural traits can have a major impact, especially if the opinions and assumptions made are false ones.

A – Authenticity
Authenticity is all about how true a person proves to be to the impression that they give, the attitudes they express and the expectations they raise with their promises or statements of intent. Challenges to someone’s personal beliefs and ideals, the conventions of their society, and the assumptions they make about themselves and others may question their underlying values. This may require people to contrast their ideas and attitudes with their actual behaviour.

C – Clarity
Clarity is a measure of a person’s capacity to articulate their thoughts, and to effectively communicate their ideas and their overall message in different social contexts. This aspect of social intelligence requires an individual to be both a good communicator and a good active listener.

E – Empathy
An integral part of social intelligence, as with emotional intelligence, is the ability to really understand another person’s perspective,to see their point of view and to share in their reactions and feelings about a given situation.

How Emotional and Social Intelligence are Related

Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University (1983) defined a theory of multiple intelligences, which introduces a practical approach to developing intelligences other than cognitive intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is one of Gardner’s key intelligence. Some people have tried to stretch emotional intelligence theory to include skills involving people but, in practical terms, it makes more sense to think of emotional intelligence and social intelligence as two distinct dimensions of competence.

Social intelligence (Gardner’s interpersonal intelligence) is separate from, but complementary to emotional intelligence (Gardner’s intrapersonal intelligence). Both models are needed in order to understand yourself and the way you interact with others. Some deficits in social intelligence arise from inadequate development of emotional intelligence; conversely, some deficits in social skills may lead to unsuccessful social experiences that may undermine a person’s sense of self-worth, which is part of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence and social intelligence can be considered as separate, but actually they are intimately interwoven.


Adapted from “The Authority Guide to Behaviour in Business: How to Inspire Others and Build Successful Relationships” (The Authority Guides) available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

[Copyright free image available from Pixabay.]

I am an emotional intelligence coach, trainer, and facilitator with over 35 years’ business and commercial experience. I am the author of “The Authority Guide to Emotional Resilience in Business” and “The Authority Guide to Behaviour in Business” part of The Authority Guides series. I have the most comprehensive range of emotional intelligence courses available on the internet taken by over 250,000 learners in 175+ countries. If you would like to discuss how online learning can develop resilience, emotional intelligence, or leadership across your organisation, give me a call on 07947 137654 or email me at