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Navigating Success: The Power of Social Intelligence in Life & Business

[fa icon="calendar"] 14-Jan-2024 07:22:10 / by Iliyana Stareva

what is social intelligence for life and business

In a world increasingly driven by connectivity and relationships, social intelligence has emerged as a crucial skill for personal and professional success.

I first heard about social intelligence from Daniel Goleman's book "Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships" and wanted to write a piece that covers what social intelligence is, why it matters in both life and business and also share the key insights into developing and honing this invaluable skill, especially in the corporate world.

What is Social Intelligence?

Social intelligence can be defined as the ability to understand and navigate social situations effectively. It goes beyond traditional intelligence metrics and encompasses a range of skills such as empathy, active listening, communication, and interpersonal relations. It involves being aware of one's own emotions and the emotions of others, as well as adapting one's behaviour to different social contexts.

The term "social intelligence" is often attributed to Edward Thorndike, an American psychologist who was a pioneer in the field of educational psychology and the study of human intelligence. Thorndike introduced the concept in his book "Intelligence and Its Uses" published in 1920. In this work, he discussed social intelligence as the ability to understand and manage people, emphasizing the importance of social skills in achieving success in various aspects of life. While Thorndike laid the groundwork for the concept, it has since evolved and been further developed by subsequent researchers and psychologists, including Daniel Goleman who became famous with his book "Emotional Intelligence" back in 1995. 

It's important to understand the difference between emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Emotional intelligence is primarily about understanding and managing emotions, both within oneself and in others, while social intelligence includes a wider array of social skills that contribute to effective interpersonal interactions. Both are crucial for building successful relationships, whether in personal or professional settings.

Why Social Intelligence Matters

1. Building Meaningful Relationships:

Social intelligence is the cornerstone of building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Whether in personal or professional settings, the ability to connect with others on an emotional level fosters trust, collaboration, and mutual understanding.

2. Effective Communication:

In business, effective communication is key to success. Social intelligence enables individuals to communicate clearly and persuasively, tailoring their message to different audiences. This skill is vital for leaders, team members, and anyone seeking to influence positive outcomes.

3. Conflict Resolution:

Life and business are not without conflicts. Socially intelligent individuals excel in resolving conflicts by understanding the underlying emotions and perspectives involved. They can navigate disagreements diplomatically, fostering harmony and cooperation.

4. Leadership and Team Dynamics:

Leaders with high social intelligence inspire and motivate their teams. They understand the diverse strengths and weaknesses of team members, promoting collaboration and creating a positive working environment. This, in turn, enhances productivity and innovation.

Key Things to Develop Social Intelligence:

1. Practice Active Listening:

Actively listening to others demonstrates respect and genuine interest. Practice paraphrasing and summarising what others say to ensure a clear understanding. Avoid interrupting and give people the space to express themselves.

2. Cultivate Empathy:

Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Put yourself in someone else's shoes to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective. This skill fosters stronger connections and helps in making more informed decisions.

3. Observe Non-Verbal Cues:

Pay attention to non-verbal communication, including body language and facial expressions. These cues provide valuable insights into a person's emotional state and can guide your responses in social situations.

4. Adaptability:

Socially intelligent individuals are adaptable. They can read a room, understand social dynamics, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. This flexibility is crucial for success in various social contexts.


In a world where success is often defined by the strength of one's relationships and ability to collaborate effectively, social intelligence stands out as a key differentiator. Whether you're navigating personal relationships or striving for success in business, honing your social intelligence can be a transformative journey. By actively listening, cultivating empathy, observing non-verbal cues, and embracing adaptability, you can unlock the full potential of social intelligence and propel yourself towards a more fulfilling and successful life.

How do you work on your social intelligence skills? 


Topics: Brands and Business, Leadership

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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