Iliyana's Blog

The Difference Between Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence

[fa icon="calendar"] 06-Jun-2024 07:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

the difference between emotional and social intelligence

In today's fast-paced and interconnected business environment, technical skills alone are no longer sufficient for achieving success. The ability to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics and effectively manage emotions has become more crucial than ever and I feel it every day in my work. This is where emotional and social intelligence come into play.

Understanding and leveraging these forms of intelligence can significantly enhance your ability to lead, collaborate, and drive business success.

Emotional intelligence (EI) and social intelligence (SI) are related concepts that both involve understanding and managing emotions but they focus on different aspects of interpersonal skills.

We delved into the power of social intelligence a few months back but today I want to go into the differences between emotional and social intelligence, and more importantly, provide actionable tips on how to leverage each in a business context.

By cultivating these skills, you can improve your interactions with colleagues and clients, foster a positive work environment, and ultimately, boost your career success. These skills can also help you in your personal life.

Let's dive in. 

The Difference Between Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

Emotional intelligence, popularised by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer and later expanded upon by Daniel Goleman, refers to the ability to recognise, understand, manage, and effectively use one's own emotions and those of others. EI is often broken down into four main components:

  1. Self-awareness: Recognising and understanding one's own emotions.
  2. Self-regulation: Managing and controlling one's own emotions effectively.
  3. Social awareness: Perceiving and understanding the emotions of others.
  4. Relationship management: Using emotional information to navigate social situations, build relationships, and communicate effectively.

Emotional intelligence is more centered on an individual's ability to handle emotions, both their own and others' and is applicable to various aspects of life, including personal relationships and professional settings.

What is Social Intelligence (SI)?

Social intelligence, on the other hand, extends beyond emotional awareness and regulation to encompass a broader range of social skills. It involves the ability to understand and navigate social situations effectively, demonstrating adaptability, empathy, and interpersonal competence. Social intelligence includes skills such as:

  1. Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings of others.
  2. Active listening: Paying close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues in communication.
  3. Social perception: Reading and understanding social dynamics and situations.
  4. Adaptability: Adjusting behavior to fit different social contexts.

While emotional intelligence is more inward-focused, social intelligence emphasises external social interactions and the ability to relate to others in diverse social environments. Social intelligence is often seen as a subset or an extension of emotional intelligence, encompassing a broader set of social skills beyond just emotional awareness.

In summary, emotional intelligence is primarily about understanding and managing emotions, both within oneself and in others, while social intelligence encompasses 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.

Now let's look at how you use each at work and in business. 

Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in Business

1. Enhance Self-Awareness Through Feedback 

Regularly seek feedback from colleagues and supervisors to gain insights into how your emotions affect your work and relationships. Use this feedback to improve self-awareness and adjust behaviours accordingly.

2. Develop Self-Regulation Techniques

Practice mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises to manage stress and stay calm under pressure. This will help you maintain composure and make better decisions during challenging situations.

3. Improve Social Awareness by Observing Others

Pay attention to colleagues' body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to understand their emotional states. You can still do this via Zoom as well. Use this information to respond empathetically and build stronger relationships.

4. Strengthen Relationship Management with Clear Communication

Communicate openly and honestly with your team. Address conflicts directly and constructively, focusing on solutions rather than blame. Building trust through clear communication will enhance teamwork and collaboration.

Leveraging Social Intelligence in Business

1. Foster Empathy in the Workplace

Show genuine interest in your colleagues' perspectives and experiences. This can be done through active listening and asking open-ended questions. Empathy fosters a supportive and inclusive work environment.

2. Practice Active Listening During Meetings

Give your full attention to the speaker, avoid interrupting, and acknowledge their points. Summarise what you heard to ensure understanding and show respect for their input - this is one of the most powerful ways to listen actively.

3. Enhance Social Perception by Observing Group Dynamics

Observe how different team members interact and identify any underlying tensions or alliances. Use this knowledge to mediate conflicts and promote a harmonious working atmosphere.

4. Adapt to Different Social Contexts

Be flexible in your communication style. Adapt your approach based on the personalities and preferences of your colleagues and clients. This adaptability can improve rapport and foster stronger professional relationships.

These tips should hopefully give you some ideas what to focus on based on your strengths and weaknesses. 

In an era where the business landscape is constantly evolving, the ability to understand and manage emotions as well as navigate complex social interactions has never been more crucial. Emotional intelligence and social intelligence are not just buzzwords but essential skills that can significantly impact your professional success and personal well-being. 

By consciously developing and applying these skills, you can transform your work environment and drive both personal and organisational success. Whether you are a leader aiming to inspire your team, a manager striving to improve workplace morale, or an employee looking to advance your career, emotional and social intelligence provide the tools you need to excel.

Progress takes time and effort and it's crucial to learn from your experiences to continue to grow. I've focused on building and enhancing both EI and SI skills over the last few years and it has made a huge difference to my career success and also personal life.

How do you foster EI and SI? 


Topics: Personal Development, Career, Leadership, Growth

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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