Your Outer Q

Social Q

For centuries, a person’s intelligence and, as many concluded, a person’s potential for success was measured by quantitative exams such as IQ, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT among others. While these intelligence markers and your determination (see Grit) are important indicators of your future success, they ignore another important determinant of success – your social quotient (SQ).

Social intelligence is the ability to understand your environment and to react appropriately to achieve social success. This type of intelligence includes skills for effective interpersonal interaction including awareness and observation of others. Rarely are these types of skills taught as a part of formal education. However, gaining social intelligence may be critical to your future. People who are highly intelligent, technically competent, or well credentialed can still fail to succeed in life or career due to a lack of social intelligence.

Take Action:

1) First, take this brief SQ quiz. Take note of the items you score low on. 

Download quiz

2) Now that you have completed the SQ quiz, it is time to assess another aspect of social intelligence: visual observation skills. One of the key skills of social intelligence is the ability to read facial expressions to gain insight into what others may or may not be thinking or feeling. This is an important element of developing awareness, which, in turn, enables you to feel and express empathy.  This quick Social Intelligence test, sponsored by Harvard, measures how well you read facial cues in order to deduce what others are feeling.  After you complete the test, you’ll be given a score as well as the average score and other statistics gathered from the test.

3) Consider your results from both the SQ quiz and the online social intelligence test. Use the activities below to help boost your social effectiveness.

Activities to Build Your Social Intelligence:

  • Become more attentive to others. Pay particular attention to facial expressions and body language that may give you clues as to how others are feeling.
  • Identify one person with whom you would like to develop a better relationship. Pose three questions to yourself about that person. Spend time observing the person and having conversations on topics related to those questions.
  • When you see a facial expression that you identify as pertaining to a specific emotion like anger, joy or confusion, check with the person to see if that is what they are feeling.  For example: “John, you look puzzled.  Would you like me to clarify?”
  • Select a social situation where you typically feel a little uncomfortable. Set a goal for yourself regarding the behavior you would like to demonstrate. Follow up with notes on your observations of your reactions, thoughts, and feelings in that setting and write down what you learned, how it felt, and what you would like to do differently next time.
  • During a recurring situation, take note of different aspects of the interaction.  Make notes after the situation as though you were an objective observer. Keep it fact rather than feeling focused. What were the dynamics that seem to be perpetually repeated? How can you change the pattern or sequence of those dynamics to change the outcome?
  • Take a video of yourself.  Ask a friend to take part in a role-play where you reenact a situation or conversation as closely as possible to what actually occurred.  Be sure to use expressions and passion to the same degree as you normally would. Watch the video, noting your facial expression, cadence, pitch, tone, body language and movement. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. What would you think about what you observed?
  • Record yourself during a difficult discussion with another person. Listen to the audio for clarity, calmness, confidence, resolve and respectfulness. Were you able to carry on the conversation without accusation, anger or frustration? Examples: Someone asks you to share private information that is none of their business.  Someone asks you to talk behind the back of a friend or peer.  Someone asks you to do something that violates your ethics.
  • With permission from the other person, record a telephone conversation where you are sharing ideas and making agreements. Listen to your interaction. Do you notice cues that tell you whether the other person agrees or doesn’t; they want to talk while you are talking; they have to interrupt you to be heard; or whether they feel heard or not? Did you checked for understanding?