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Social Intelligence: The Science of Knowing the Room

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Social Quotient "SQ"

Have you ever wondered how some people can just walk into a crowded room and easily socialize and interact with anyone and everyone? These people are often referred to as the "life of the party" or the "social butterfly". These amazing humans are able to work the room, not only talking to everyone and their dog, but also genuinely engaging with everyone they talk to. We've all seen them... Some of us ARE them... These extroverted extroverts are demonstrating a high level of Social Intelligence. Social intelligence, or SQ, is an important leadership tool that we see used often. People like Tony Robbins and Brené Brown make us all feel better because we feel like they KNOW us and are talking directly to us.

Good leaders are able to see and relate to people on a level that makes them feel important, heard, and seen. Surprisingly, this is a skill that can be honed and actually dramatically improved upon? Social intelligence is simply the capacity to know oneself and to know others. Ones social intelligence develops from human interaction and learning from social failures and successes. The question then becomes, "how in the world can I build up my social intelligence?". Well, here are some thoughts and an equation that may help guide you along your way.

Intelligence Quotient "IQ"

A persons Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, is often described as something that a person is generally born with. Skills can be learned and knowledge gained, but the innate ability to grasp complex concepts is largely genetic. For instance, my brain just doesn't have enough IQ to perform high levels of quantum physics... Or low levels of quantum physics for that matter... I can learn about the science, but it is highly unlikely that my brain will ever achieve the level of understanding of which Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, or even Sheldon from the "Big Bang Theory" attained.

Here's an example of how big of a role IQ plays in social intelligence. If I were to walk into a conference for high performing surgeons (I'm not one), I would have no grounds on which to build up a professional conversation, therefor I would have to try and focus on more personal aspects of the actual surgeon to build rapport. If I were in Chicago, I could start with, "How about that Cubs game?" or "Hi, I'm Travis, MAN! Comicon has really changed over the years" (That's me trying to make a surgeon laugh). Either way, the more intellectually harmonious I am to any given situation, the more comfortable in the room I will feel; that's why IQ matters. I will also state that there is research out there stating that IQ can be increased over time, however for the purpose of this article, I want to focus more on ones ability to use their IQ to increase their levels of social intelligence.

Emotional Quotient "EQ"

Emotional Quotient (Emotional Intelligence), or EQ is something different all together. According to Oxford, EQ is defined as "the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically." Simply put, EQ is ones ability to truly know ones emotions, the reasoning behind their emotions, and how their emotions are making others feel. All that mushy stuff that means so so much to leadership. Emotion is a strong tool of leadership when used correctly and with a high level of EQ. If you are able to engage with someone and pick up on emotional and social cues, your ability to break down strongholds and build up trust is immeasurable. People, in general, have a deep seeded desire to be heard and seen. As your EQ increases, you will find that you are able to empathize with people as they experience happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, and even boredom.

Intelligence Quotient + Emotional Quotient = Social Quotient

So now the equation we've all been waiting for... I am going to throw out that IQ, EQ, and SQ are directly intertwined, one building off of the other. These three quotients are also building blocks for one another, and when exercised, can create amazing outcomes as a leader. Since we previously stated that IQ is largely genetic, we will start with IQ as the beginning of the equation. IQ can be used in the equation as a place to start. Entering into a space where you are comfortable and can engage in conversation about why you are there can open other doors of communication.

The second part of the equation has to be something that can dramatically change with effort over time. EQ can be dissected into several different categories. Here are a few: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and finally social skills. EQ will serve as the second, and really the last, part of our equation since these skills can be honed and increased.

So the equation is, IQ+EQ=SQ... It seems overly simple, but the fact is that with your already intelligent mind always at work, combined with an ever increasing level of understanding of how emotions impact yourself and others, comes a level of social intelligence that directly correlates. The more you know and understand your own emotions and can empathize with the emotions of others, the higher your social intelligence will soar.

Bottom line is, know yourself and others. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Be bold enough to engage in conversation, and continuously work on being the most emotionally healthy person you can be. If you are doing that, then equation will work itself out in your favor every time! Start Strong and finish well!

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