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  • Niki Ernst

The 7 Skills of Social Intelligence

Something that more and more pops up to me and very likely because I think, we are looking at the biggest problem of todays world (How bad do we humans treat eachother) is the concept of social intelligence, by definition the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments.

End of this September, we learned from the Social Progress Index, that we are doing ok on the roadmap of the UN SDG when we look into the goals related to the state of planet earth. There is always room for more but at least we are moving forward. What really is alarming to me is the obversation of the SPI that in the goals looking into the behaviour of humans (how do we treat eachother), we are performing worse, than three years ago.

The San Francisco based organisation, Jaunty, has assembled a list of 7 social skills that we should master — to change the narrative on this foundation of every future decisions, humans make, to turn the planet into a better place:

1.Body language If our words are the letter, our body is the paper on which the letter is written. It will tell a lot about us and the words about to come, before we have even spoken the first sentence. Our Body language also defines, who we want to attract, who shall join us, who shall listen to us. Amy Cuddy gave an excellent talk about the power of body language. “We’re fascinated with body language,” she says. We dissect and analyze and judge people, and in particular we scrutinize public leaders. A handshake, or lack of one, can have us talking for weeks. No wonder, she has 50M views on her talk.

2.Conversational Agility How much do the reactions to your words align with your intentions? The answer ranges from “did not intend to say that, but interesting what you hear — I can live with that” to “From what I see in your reaction, I actually regret already, having said something in first place.” How often do you actually feel understood? There are many reasons that give source for this frustration, most of them circulate around the inconvenient truth that you failed to find the right words or the right moment. What are your patterns? You might already know what is not working for you, the concept of reframing (turning a difficult situation into an opportunity), refocusing (show new connections in the bigger picture), and redirecting (change the emotion to new opportunities) often helps.

3.Assertivness By definition, assertiveness is the ability to express opinions, thoughts, and feelings clearly in a non-confrontational way. It is the ability to respect and exert our own rights without denying the rights and personal boundaries of others. Some people have a very passive approach, they wait for the other to see, feel and understand, be empathetic, which always leads to frustration because in most of the cases, this will never happen. Some have an aggressive approach, also difficult, because it will make it tough for the other to take and accept, even if you are right. And of course we also know the passive-aggressive approach which just creates a toxic atmosphere.

4.Humor As a matter of fact, humor is learnable. If you have doubts, you can make people laugh, take a standup class or navigate through tons of tutorials on YouTube. There are two kinds of people, no one really enjoys hanging with: a) boring people or b) people who think they are funny, but actually they are not. If you think, you are one of them, do some homework, get out. Humor is the band-aid for everything, sometimes even a life-saver in tricky situations.

5.Charisma Charisma has many aspects to it. I can talk a lot about the Art of Storytelling, but if that’s not your thing, touch literally builds connection. Unless the person in front of you clearly does not want to be touched, thats why empathy is sexy. None of these are features of gifted people, this is all a result of learn, understand, practice. Charisma turns you into a social cyclone.


6.Approach/Introduction There are three ways to connect with people:  a) approach someone and introduce yourself  b) wait until someone approaches you to introduce him/herself  c) wait until someone introduces someone else to you

b and c are based on hope. You would not want to steer your life through social connections, based on hope. Christopher Barrat shared his concept about the open and closed group-setups in any social event. He talks about three categories of people, and from now on, you will always be able to spot out one of these three (or all of them), wherever you go.  1) The guy with the mobile phone. Ignore him or her. You would instantly turn into this persons best friend for the rest of the evening. Sorry, pal  2) “open two” or “open three”. Groups of two or three, and the way they stand towards each other leaves an empty space for a +1. They are your buddies. Go there, ask “can I join you” — and you are part of the gang.  3) “closed two” or “closed three”. They are facing each other, closing the circle. They are having a personal conversation. You would not even want to ask for permission to join. They will be polite and say yes, but continue their conversation. A conversation without any room for you. Thats devastating. Don’t go there. Groups of more then three can be either open or closed, but it would never be an intimate conversation. You can always join, however these are often the least interesting groups to be part of.


7.Beliefsystem This is all about what we have proven to ourselves possible and working. Most of us did this somewhere between age 10 and 17. Standing in front of the mirror and trying out facial expression, postures and more. Be aware of your “default setting”. Sometimes it is a glass in a hand, sometimes a book, sometimes it is sitting, standing, walking. When you find yourself in a situation of discomfort, reset to your default setting and you can start over into the situation.

Of course, I am only touching the surface, all the thoughts to each of the 7 skills are the tip of the iceberg and there is a lot lot more behind these. But let’s use this as the beginning of a conversation: how do you do, socially?


#socialskills #socialintelligence

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Niki Ernst

The Businesstherapist.

Founder and CEO of IACy e.U.
The Innovationagencynetwork

Arnethgasse 44/26

1160 Vienna

Austria