4 Traits of Social Intelligence and How to Teach It to Kids

You’ve likely heard of emotional intelligence, but social intelligence (SI) can be an obscure topic for many. This fact is ironic, considering how many people practice and develop it without putting the proper name to it. You’ve probably referred to a socially intelligent person as “outgoing” or “the life of the party” numerous times before. These people are great at maintaining interpersonal connections, and those are precisely the skills you want your kids to have.

Social intelligence isn’t static—it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and kids are especially easy to teach. Educating your children on healthy communication helps them achieve their best in any interaction.

The Four Traits of Social Intelligence

SI characterizes how an individual interacts with other people. Those with high SI know the ins and outs of socializing. They understand how to play various roles within a social environment and communicate with people from all walks of life with little issue. They’re adept at understanding others, making friends, and handling new situations.

SI looks different across various cultures and demographics—every group values different social skills. However, a few characteristics remain constant.

  • Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.
  • Respect: Many cultures value esteem between children and adults as well as between spouses. Respecting others can mean adapting your communication style to fit their needs or coming to a compromise. Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect.
  • Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? You must be able to change your behavior when necessary while still keeping your core attributes.
  • Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning SI, they’re confident in their social abilities. They experience little stress or worry over interacting with others.

Social and emotional intelligence go hand in hand, but they aren’t entirely the same. Emotional intelligence (EI) focuses more on identifying emotions and practicing self-regulation. Learning EI teaches you to look inward and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings while SI is more interaction-based. However, you can’t have SI without EI—both enable individuals to communicate effectively with others. People proficient in both connect with others on sympathetic and empathetic levels.

How It Affects Differing Aspects of Life

Grade school and secondary school are the prime times to teach your child about SI. They’re still learning countless things about themselves, the world, and other people. Molding their SI will help them resolve big and small conflicts with friends and learn the importance of respecting others. They’ll have a stronger self-identity because they’ll understand how to adopt and shed various roles without losing their personality.

Socially adept students have more empathy for others, which can lead to less bullying and harassment. The same applies to workplaces where employees with low SI harass others.

Once your child grows up and heads into the workforce, they’ll have to navigate professional relationships. These connections are different from casual relationships you hold with friends or family. Bosses and co-workers will expect a degree of respect from each other, and misreading these boundaries can cause issues. Someone well-versed in SI knows how to play several roles around the office and keep conflict to a minimum.

Everyone has a unique learning style, which can prove complex if people are unable to mesh and cooperate. About 40 percent of people prefer visual learning over auditory or hands-on, and this preference can make collaboration harder for those preferring less common methods. However, a healthy dose of SI enables everyone to convey information and share ideas without problems.

Developing Social Intelligence

SI isn’t something you’ll find in a curriculum. Most schools focus on the core subjects of math and English, but don’t touch on SI or EI. Many people develop a high SI from getting out and interacting with others, but not every child learns this way. That’s why it’s essential to fill this information gap and educate your kids on navigating social situations.

Cultivate social intelligence in your children by letting them interact with others their age, whether through play dates or extracurricular activities. Experiential learning is necessary for putting retained knowledge to good use. Ask them what they’ve learned from their interactions and what behaviors they could try next time for different outcomes.

Teach them how to communicate with friends, teachers, and relatives. For most people, each group calls for a different communication style and respect level. One shouldn’t address teachers like casual acquaintances, and disrespect toward friends is also inappropriate. Lacking the emotional intelligence to handle these situations can cause your child to feel depressed and disconnected from others.

Practice the same behaviors you want your kids to employ. Listen attentively during conversations, understand their viewpoints, and acknowledge their body language. Children absorb what they see their parents do. Demonstrating is one of the best ways to teach them.

Educate Your Children for a Better Future

Incorporating lessons about SI and EI will make cultivating relationships easy and enjoyable for your child. These concepts promote healthy connections through comprehensive social, emotional, and mental understanding. You can develop the same skills by teaching others, which will benefit everyone involved.


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