What is Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence differs from intellectual intelligence; in fact, many intellectually smart people lack interpersonal communications skills. Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to read social cues, interpret non-verbal and verbal communication and adjust your communication style appropriately. A person with high interpersonal intelligence negotiates relationships with skill and finesse because he or she understands the need for empathy, compassion, understanding, assertiveness and expression of needs and wants. This kind of a person knows how to collaborate with others, lead when leading is needed, follow when following is required and work together with people of varying communication skills.

Basically, a person with high interpersonal intelligence knows how to get along with others, bring out the best in a team and work through conflicts or misunderstandings with minimal damage.

Interpersonal Intelligence can be developed by working on the following:

  • Reading social cues: Watch how other people communicate. Look for verbal and non-verbal communication as you watch interactions. Does she lean into him? Does she touch his arm? Hold his gaze? How often do these two people look at one another? Laugh? Smile? Watch successful and unsuccessful interactions with people to determine what makes these individual interactions work or not work.
  • Practice empathy: Try to put yourself in the other person's position when discussing something, especially if you need to collaborate with this person, make a decision or resolve a conflict. Ask questions to find out what this person needs or desires in the situation. Compare your needs and desires with his or her desires and needs, then look for common ground.
  • Control your emotions: If you feel yourself getting hot-headed about a topic, take a step back and let yourself cool down before you continue the conversation. Take a few deep breaths, use the restroom or ask if you can get some papers or research to back up your side of the story. Once you've regained control, approach the topic with a fresh voice. State your desire to work together and find a solution, focusing on the positive outcome, not the conflict at hand.
  • Express emotion when appropriate: On the other end of the spectrum is the factual person who does not know how to express compassion, emotional connection or positive emotion. If you are Dr. Spock in the flesh, you need to realize facts alone are rarely enough to bring a team together. You'll need to learn how to smile, praise, share personally and radiate warmth. Look for things you like in the other person or people on your team; express positive thoughts verbally. Find a role model-someone who is successful with interpersonal relationships-and watch how he or she interacts with people. Try to imitate his or her spirit and actions as you learn how to make a team or relationship gel.
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