In a Harper’s Magazine article in the 1930s, Edward L. Thorndike maintained that there are three intelligences: abstract, mechanical, and social. He defined social intelligence as the ability to understand others and “act wisely in human relations.” He maintained that social intelligence is different from academic ability and that it is a key element in what makes people succeed in life.

There are a range of current definitions about Social Intelligence and myriad theories about how whether or not you can teach social intelligence and what it entails specifically. Some people call Social IQ “social skills” or “social quotient”, or “interpersonal relations”. Some theorists further explain Social IQ as one half of Emotional IQ, and others explain that Social IQ relates to Moral IQ and conscience.

From an etiquette perspective, The Civility Group describes Social IQ as “social knowledge”, which includes awareness, ability to interpret situations, knowledge of social expectations, and application/adaptation of those expectations in any situation. Social IQ serves to establish minimum standards of behaviour (including rules and etiquette) for interacting with others in a positive way. Social IQ is about identifying a quality in human beings that makes them capable of understanding what makes their lives worthwhile and makes their society better, during their lifetime and after. Courtesy and Social IQ overlap, because exercising either indicates a consideration for others, a deliberate choice to put the needs of others first, and an awareness of how one’s behaviour directly impacts others. Put simply, even if a person is moral and has character, it is having Social IQ helps that person determine when and how to apply character and morality.

Social intelligence is in the tradition of wisdom,
not the more current idea of “smartness.”

~ Norman D. Livergood.

When a person is focused and more aware of what is going on around him/her, he/she is better able manage time, responsibilities, and priorities. And, when a person gets into the habit of using his/her Social IQ, he/she usually makes better decisions. Those decisions are less likely to cause problems in the decision-makers work or home life or with relationships because when the decision was made, the person doing the deciding considered a range of factors; how his/her behaviour impacts others, what would be the outcome of a decision, what factors were influencing the decision etc.

Because a person with high Social IQ is generally more in tune with his/her own needs and wants (priorities) and because that person is also in the habit of considering others, he/she is able to make decisions more quickly, he/she is more productive, he/she is better able to communicate and negotiate more effectively with others, and as a result of all that…he/she is generally more confident, conscientious, and certainly more courteous.

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.
– Robert Louis Stevenson